Sunday, August 24, 2014

Album Listening Club - Nootropics discussion post

Album #3 for the club was chosen to be Nootropics by Lower Dens.

Lower Dens - Nootropics
I had not heard of Lower Dens prior to them being suggested for the ALC. They're from Baltimore, MD and seems to be a project of Jana Hunter who is a contemporary of Devendra Banhart.

So, let's just jump into the discussion, shall we? :)

DISCUSSION TIPS:
  • Compose your reply in a text editor like TextEdit or TextWrangler (Mac) or Notepad (Windows) before pasting into the reply window. People have reported having their replies eaten, and that's a total buzzkill. Sorry for that, and I'm looking for a new discussion platform.
  • There is a checkbox under the text entry field that says "Notify Me". I'm pretty sure that will e-mail you when a reply is posted. I'm not sure if it's any reply, or just a reply to your post.
All iTunes Music Store links are using my referral code. Please buy using those links and support Your Older Brother. Thanks!

9 comments:

  1. I was introduced to Lower Dens by a fellow musichead friend in '10 with their great album Twin Hand Movement. It is a totally opposite album from this one with lots of catchy, poppy tunes and I instantly fell in love with it and them. So when I found out they were going to release a new album I was excited. But when I heard this my first reaction was 'what did I just listen to?'. It seemed there was nothing there but admittedly I had just put it on and did stuff around my apartment so I wasn't paying close attention.

    But being a huge fan of the previous album I was determined to appreciate this album as well. I found that the more I listened the more rewards I found to enjoy. Granted, it is an experimental album with deep roots in Kraut and progressive rock. Think Kraftwerk or Can on a mellow high. There's also influences of King Crimson and Adrian Belew as well as early Bowie and Eno. Admittedly it's not an easily accessible album. The immediate songs I liked were 'Brains' and 'Lion In Winter Pt. 2' which were the poppier tunes on the album. But the more I listened, the beauty of the languid songs like 'Nova Anthem', 'Lamb' & 'Propagation' hit me. 'Nova Anthem' is a stunning song that invokes the feeling of a church organist playing a classical piece in a chapel. And 'Lamb' can bring me to near tears with it's soaring, emotional vocals if I'm in the right mood.

    There are definitely a few 'songs' here that are instrumentals and appear to be throw aways on the first few listens. 'Stem' and 'Lion In Winter Pt. 1' are more soundscape experiments but evoke such an atmosphere and upon repeated listens reveal their own unique beauty as well with the textures of guitars and synthesizers. 'In The End Is The Beginning', the last song on the album is an over 12 minute, meandering masterpiece. Jana's echoing vocals and the simplistic instrumentation creates an emotional response that I find hard to pinpoint. What is the song about? I think it's about the process of aging and how that feels. 'I feel different now, than I did before. My skin hangs low. My eyes are wide. My hair is thin. My arms are strong. My teeth are sharp.' It's a fascinating song that brings layers of understanding with repeat listening. I was amazed at how I came to enjoy these when I gave them a chance.

    This album became my favorite of 2012 and I actually have it on vinyl too. I find it haunts me and it's stayed on my mp3 player ever since.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I stated in my review, I can see coming back to a few tracks, but I didn't love the whole of the record.

      I like the poetry of that last song that you mention, I'll need to check out some of the lyrics more than I have. It's tough to get into lyrics in just a few listens.

      Delete
    2. You should check out their debut album 'Twin Hand Movement', which is more accessible than this one. It's quite good. This one is definitely experimental.

      Delete
    3. I will put it on my to-do listening list.

      Which I will create right now. ;)

      Delete
  2. I just skimmed through August's review but wanted to post mine before I let it color my thoughts. :)

    I did the "Put the record on and do some stuff" method of checking it out. As I mentioned, I'd never heard of Lower Dens before this. Some songs I didn't have any comment on, but the songs that did pull me out of whatever it was I was doing elicited these notes:

    Alphabet Song: The drums had me thinking this would be a jazzy type record for sure. That was not the case. :)

    Brains flows into Stem imperceptably, the latter continuing the train-like rhythm of the former but introducing a different keyboard melody over the top. It sounds more like a movement than a different song. The two together kind of remind me of something that The War On Drugs would do. I do really like these two together, and separately.

    Propagation - Music & vocals kind remind me of Moon Seven Times. Slow, chorus-y guitar, languid, laconic vocals:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVk62i7Ner8

    Lamb - This one was mixed for me. 2nd half of the song is ok. Kind of sounds like a Radiohead/Siouxsie collaboration.

    Lion in Winter Pt. 2 - Reminds me of early OMD. That's a good thing, it's like discovering a lost track by them.

    Nova Anthem - Kind of like a Sigur Ros that I don't really like.

    So, the album is definitely hit & miss for me, but there might be a couple of songs I'd come back to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea, I had a feeling this would be a hit & miss. It definitely was a grower for me and I was already a fan of the band. I find that often the albums that I immediately like don't always stay with me that long and it's the slow burners that do. If you give it a few more listens you might feel differently. Most people don't want to take that kind of time to let an album grow on them which I understand since there's so much out there to listen to these days.

      Delete
  3. Sid R
    This is the first I’ve heard of Nootronics. I liked it. I listened on my phone with ear buds, so I quite probably missed out on a lot of the layers but heard enough to get the pictures. I liked the build of the tunes, and there was a build however slight. A few of the songs didn’t grab me but for the most part I enjoyed listening. Nova Anthem was nice. Stems; meh. Propagation contained little slices of Joy Division and was probably my favorite along with Brains. The twelve minute trancy thing didn’t really grab me but twelve minute trancy things rarely do. Lion in Winter pt.2 with the “As above so below lyric" seemed kind of trite, but I agree with August and Sam in that this may be a grower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually the band is Lower Dens. Glad you generally liked the album. I was surprised by how much it grew on me considering I was rather underwhelmed with it on first listen a few years ago. I actually think that this is a perfect album to listen to w/headphones since you can concentrate more on the layers of sound when immersed in it.

      It's unfortunate there aren't more brave souls like you Sid who delved into this for the sake of the listening group. Their loss! I personally like to keep an open mind to music & often find I end up liking something I thought I might not enjoy. That's one of the reasons I joined this great group.

      Delete
  4. To be honest, even after listening in full a few times, I still can't make my mind up on this album. I enjoyed the more ambient-y, trancy parts, but as a whole the album seemed to just wash right over me. *shrug*

    ReplyDelete