Following a label change and a slight revision in lineup, Lower Dens return with sophomore take Nootropics. According to Dens, their latest off Domino imprint Ribbon explores the concept of trans-humanism; utilizing technology in an effort to expand our abilities as humans. Singularity is often talked about, but a convergence of man and machine is unseen – to the public’s knowledge, at least. So as deep as the concept sounds, Nootropics is just a five-piece writing and recording music, extending ideas and expressions through modern technology and instrumentation. Regardless, their second album comes with a more succinct vision fit with healthier production, which feels and tastes like a record from a band with staying power.
The lo-fi safety blanket that insulated their debut, Twin-Hand Movement, has been removed, the reverb dialed back, allowing Jana Hunter’s sullen vocal talents to pervade the foreground. The sharp distorted guitar riffs favored in the past have been replaced by brooding synths and subtle rumbles of guitar that drift alongside each other in harmony. The combination creates a nebulous cloud that envelopes the pulse of the percussion which takes on two faces: live and electronic. By emphasizing individual talents in with the new recordings, as opposed to creating a wall of sound, the ten tracks of Nootropics have room to stretch and grow into the lengths the band isn’t used to exploring. The five tracks that peak the five-minute mark tend to meander into ambient-psych territories; territories and times relatively unreached in Twin Hand-Movement.
Fans of “I Get Nervous” and “Truss Me” might be a little disappointed with the improvements in production quality, but Nootropics isn’t a jail short you pick out of the ashtray – album’s North Carolina, Class A fresh. Burns clean. At least you’ll be able to stray away from the Chan Marshall and Victoria Legrand talk and more into the territory of Psychic Dancehall and Bear In Heaven.
While the essence of their past work lingers in Nootropics’ puffs of drone and melody, Lower Dens’ latest is as big of a step forward for the band as it is for Hunter which will only increase the anticipation for another leap with a new album. No pressure. Are weed-whacking shades the new Wayferars? STIHL and dad’s across the U.S. are going to be so confused.