It’s no secret that Jana Hunter is
weathered. The ethereal Texas-born, Baltimore-based songstress has played her
parts in outfits like CocoRosie, Phosphorescent, Indian Jewelry, and Matteah
Baim, among others; formed the chart-topping Matty & Mossy, whose songs appeared
in the Andrew Bujalski films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual
recorded a spilt LP with the empyrean Devendra
Banhart in 2005, the same year she released her solo debut, Black
Unstaring Heirs of Doom, on Banhart’s and Andy Cabic’s (of Vetiver) Gnomonsong label. And now, equipped with years of experience and indie distinction, Hunter has traded
in her intimate low-fi weird-folk for disconnected low-fi shoegaze via her
latest act, Lower Dens and their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement.
There’s a disappointing hitch with
Lower Dens’ debut that’s terribly hard to shake – it’s completely disjointed in
its execution. The first part of the album is grappled with textural
slow-burners (“A Dog’s Dick,” “Truss Me” and “I Get Nervous”) that are more
head-to-the-ground tense than smoky, wave-throb sermons. And Hunter, who is
known for her ambrosially blistered singing, sounds more like a mumbling mime
than an eidolic siren – incomprehensible and detached. It’s like a
basement-trapped mid-age shoegaze act warming up for a never-booked gig – is
this experimentation or an identity crisis?
That answer titters until the second
part of Twin-Hand Movement comes into
play. Starting with the disquietingly clever “Hospice Gates,” the tracks on the
other side of the 11 that make up this debut have more verve and assurance –
polished in its sound without purging the rawness. Hunter’s anti-social vocals exude
more of a sparkle of poise during these last few tracks, and the overall
melodic marsh of copious sound is more palpable. Twin-Hand Movement’s fuzzy obscurity is easy to breathe in, even if
the jangly swell build up of closer “Blue & Silver” was anti-climatic.
And that leaves us with this: was
the name of the debut intentional or foretelling?
DOWNLOAD: “Rosie,” “Hospice Gates” ANNAMARYA SCACCIA