Illuminated by a moving projection of something akin to a fuzzy 80s tv screen, Lower Dens opened up last Thursday’s show with hypnotic aplomb, blasting the intimate Hoxton venue with an extended introduction of delightfully menacing and mournfully tremulous guitars.
It is these kind of atmospheric, mesmerising, slow-build introductions that are arguably becoming Lower Dens’ most characteristic trait, and the show continued in that vein. Throughout the performance the rise and fall of the many elongated intros could always be counted on to reach suitably climactic endings.
In a set consisting mainly of songs taken from their latest album (which comes with the rather visually pleasing title of Nootropics) it was interesting to view the band’s collective approach to their live performance. As the band members stood in a semi-circular formation around lead singer Jana Hunter, they played with dramatic precision, a necessary ability for their particular brand of spiky, post-punk addled ‘space rock’.
No better example of their consummate workmanship was their live performance of ‘A Dog’s Dick’ from their previous album Twin-Hand Movement. With fierce concentration written onto their brows, the two lead guitarists played on, the melody ringing out like carefully choreographed stately fireworks, their guitars ricocheting backwards and forwards with casual skill. Both bassist and drummer were similarly engrossed, working hard to carry off the addictive rhythm over which their bandmates’ guitars resounded.
‘Lion in Winter Pt. 2’, a song so good that it warranted a complete introductory song of it’s own – ‘Lion in Winter Pt. 1’ – came complete with a mind-washing dystopian beat, vaguely reminiscent of an old Kraftwerk output. The song managed to spark much dancing from the crowd and for a few minutes at least, Hoxton Bar & Grill became the disco at the end of the universe.
Sliding smoothly back towards the present, ’The End Has No Beginning’ came as a dark and chasmic counterpoint to the rest of the show’s somehow more upbeat melancholia. With a foreboding bassline that would not be out of place on a Warsaw record, and a jolting industrial guitar sound bringing to mind the now re-activated Swans, the cinematic leanings of the song would see it well placed on the soundtrack of a horror film.
The band declined entirely to interrupt their performance with plesantries, a move which helped to contain the mood, and the angsty energy that the songs gave rise to. Amid calls of an encore, the band dithered for a moment and then went straight into a two song finish; and while these songs were much more upbeat than their predecessor, the looming menace of ‘The End Has No Beginning’ still, unendingly, continued to loop in the mind.
Illustration by New Wolf head illustrator, not an illustrator of heads, at least not exclusively: John Mcloughlin