Top 25 LPs of 2012
***REPOST OF PREVIOUS REVIEW OF ‘NOOTROPICS’ FROM THIS SITE***
Views are not those of Music’s Not Dead, they are mine. I don’t work there, even though I wish I did.
Often a short-form of saying a band is frustratingly uninspiring and safe is by saying “My mum’s favourite band”. Take That, James Morrison, Take That, Leona Lewis, Take That, Coldplay and Take That are just a few that fall into this category. I don’t really agree with this kind of categorisation because, when it comes to music, my mum is brilliant. I asked her what her favourite album of the year so far was a few weeks ago and she settled on ‘Nootropics’ by Lower Dens, an album that charted nowhere and isn’t even famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page. (I do take credit; she denies the existence of the Celine Dion albums she got rid of years ago.)
Written when the band were reading up on bizarre leftfield philosophies by authors you and I have probably never heard of, ‘Nootropics’ is very much the work of a full band – though frontwoman Jana Hunter was a solo musician in her own right, she couldn’t have made this record on her own. The opener, ‘Alphabet Song’, starts gently with hissing hi-hats, wheezy organs and warm guitar slides, evoking being lost in the woods with some friends and some torches. While it sounds mysterious throughout the whole record, there’s still a certain warmth to it nonetheless. Jana Hunter’s voice is spectral and cavernous over the tightly-wound music. Songs towards the start of the record, like the wonderful and propulsive ‘Brains’, seem to explore discomfort with the modern world, but as the record becomes looser and less restrained, it starts to revolve around themes of regressing into a more animalistic state. The music itself becomes more atmospheric and seems to slink into a dark recess the further it progresses. The bass gets more and more dominant and the rhythms get slower and slower, as if it’s sinking into hibernation. By the time the closer ‘In The End Is The Beginning’ starts, you know that it’s found a level of murky darkness it’s not coming out of; even so, it’s a weirdly nice and comfortable form of darkness, like a mammal covering himself with earth to sleep through the winter. A beautiful, subtle and eerie rock record, ‘Nootropics’ is one of the most unique albums I’ve heard in a long while.
Atmosphere is the order of the day here; things like Jana and Geoff Graham’s ghost harmonies, Nate Nelson’s almost total reliance on cymbals and snares and remarkably restrained guitar work by everyone involved, make for a record that drags you straight into another world. I think that’s why I decided to review this record this week; October’s nearly upon us, the sky is greyer than John Major’s Spitting Image puppet, I’m about to enter the second year of a degree that I feel utterly unprepared for and all I want is for the world to stop. Hibernators unite, retreat to the Lower Dens.
(Their first, and wonderful, LP ‘Twin Hand Movement’ is also available.)
For fans of: Beach House, David Sylvian, Talk Talk, The Cure (a la Seventeen Seconds)
Click here to hear Propagation
– Joe Anthony Hill