| POSTED BY: JEAN LEE
The question of whether good music comes from an immediate reaction or careful thoughtfulness pervades present day music. There are usually obvious differences between bands that have reasons for the music they make and bands that stick to the enjoyment of melancholic hooks and nothing more. Lower Dens is somehow at the center of this venn diagram. 'Nootropics' (the namesake of the album) refers to memory enhancing drugs. The idea of the synthetics altering the capacity of man is a concept that saturates the album. This might induce a "Really? Seriously?" reaction but Lower Dens succeeds in incorporating their philosophical concepts seamlessly into their music. Introspective lyrics ("I feel different now than I did before" in "In The End Is The Beginning") and sensory focus are ingredients of a sonic experiment from an existential band. Like Lower Dens' idea of nootropics, Nootropics is a successful chemistry experiment, combining the likes of organic matter and machine.
The Maryland freak folk ensemble eases the listener into Nootropics with the melancholic "Alphabet Song," a steady rhythmic, melody driven song with even measures of bass and subdued sonic flare. It's a cosmic whirlwind with a catchy hook. "Brains," and "Stem" continue the motif of floating in space with a caffein overdose, the atmosphere associated with the perception-oriented Lower Dens. Jana Hunter's vocals are a definite focal point of Nootropics (even with the instrumental "Stem"), an instrumental element that manifests as essential.
The album demonstrates diversity in the tracks. The first song has a catchy melancholic hook whereas the last song ("In The End Is The Beginning") is a compilation of blended vocals and dreamlike instrumentals, combined to establish a lengthy (twelve minutes and eighteen seconds) sensory experience. There are definite high points on the album: "Brains," "Nova Anthem," "Alphabet Song." However, there are no obvious low points (I say obvious because if there are, I haven't caught them, or had any desire to seek them out). Let them take your brain too, to the odd space in between the pop of poignancy and the haze of art-fueled abstraction.