Once upon a time, acid-folk singer-songwriter Jana Hunter needed a backup band for her solo tour; the ensemble gelled so well together that Hunter penned material exclusively for the new formation, thus siphoning an existence for the Lower Dens. Considering Twin-Hand Movement bears Hunter’s eclectic fingerprint, it’s difficult not to extract comparisons to her solo work. Just as lighthearted and profound as anything Hunter had previously conceived, she retains her signature organic, milky-sweet songwriting timbre with pride, this time exorcising a psychedelic world amidst the haunting ballads. But the similarities end there; Lower Dens is a uniquely different entity than the backwoods freak-folk Hunter was so accustomed to performing.
Though Twin-Hand Movement most immediately recalls Joy Division or Faust’s more conventional work, it carries an uncanny resemblance to Film School’s Alwaysnever, the better part of its almost 40 minutes gazing down at its shoes and pattering along without a care in the world. Each instrument floats in its own trip of reverberation. Geoff Graham’s bass glides over each cohesive track like a droning cloud that keeps the rest of the band adrift in a mellow, purgatorial consciousness. If you’re having trouble sleeping, ditch the pills. Twin-Hand Movement will lull you into never-never land. Not that it induces boredom; in fact, the contrary. Minimal chord progressions, rain-drenched guitars, drifting rhythms – the album’s soporific nature is its prime charm.
A generous fraction of tracks linger in blissful monotony. Take the structure-less “Plastic & Powder.” Under an earth-deep foundation, Hunter’s gender-bending contralto shadows the sporadic guitar licks, perhaps the band’s only song cues. This style goes into extremes during “A Dog’s Dick” and the perpetual wavering drone in “Holy Water,” both of which recall Sonic Youth’s more improvisational moments. Elsewhere, the album’s more traditional fare turns out to be Twin-Hand Movement’s supreme highlight. The single “I Get Nervous” is pure ear candy, a downtempo ditty with a bouncy melody and a dreamy, subdued aura. The watery chords on “Hospice Gates” climax into a fuzzy free-for-all while remaining in its verse-chorus confines. Whatever the band tackles, they prove their capability in both configured and improvisational environments.
Twin-Hand Movement, though short, is infinitely sweet, eerie and affable. For this, the album is like a friendly ghost that enjoys haunting people. As moody as it can be, don’t be surprised if many of the songs tattoo themselves into your mind. It’s a debut album that captivates with every tryptophanic moment, and most importantly it demonstrates a range of songwriting talent that should chart Hunter onto more maps and invite the Lower Dens into a very loyal fanbase.