May 22, 2010

Today's Hotness: Lower Dens, Concord Ballet Orchestra Players

>> Bullet points for Jana Hunter that we keep at the ready in the unlikely event we are engaged in conversation about the haunting/haunted songwriter: first, the compelling voice -- it's in the same register as Chan Marshall, but perhaps a tad more desperate and poignant; second, the unsettling quality of her gothic Americana gets under your mental skin, and stays there; and third; she once toured via sailboat, but then there was some sort of boating mishap, and then the tour had to finish by land. We can now add a fourth, which is that Ms. Hunter recently formed the band Lower Dens. The Baltimore-based quartet, commissioned in 2009, significantly fills out Hunter's compositions with a standard rhythm section and second guitar. The aural heft does much to enhance her songs, at least based on the pulsing, reverberant promo track "Hospice Gates." The tune will feature on Lower Dens' forthcoming, 11-song full-length Twin-Hand Movement, which the label Gnomonsong will release July 20. The long player, which was to have been Hunter's third solo set, will be preceded by the single "I Get Nervous" b/w "Johnssong,"; the single is available for pre-order now and will be issued May 31. We first wrote about Hunter here in 2005, where we reviewed her Gnomongsong debut, the collection Blank Unstaring Heirs Of Doom. Hunter subsequently released the additional solo sets There Is No Home (2007)and Carrion EP (2007).

Lower Dens -- "Hospice Gates" -- Twin-Hand Movement
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[pre-order Twin-Hand Movement from Gnomonsong here]

>> Scene-maker and radio DJ extraordinaire Jeff Breeze's long-running improvisational space-rock project Concord Ballet Orchestra Players is back with a fifth record, Palindromes. The set, which features Mr. Breeze abetted by a quintet including our former Junkmedia colleague Martin Pavlinic, is officially released June 1, but you can download the thing for free at Bandcamp right here right now. You're wondering why you need improvisational space-rock in your life. We understand, believe us. But Palindromes is quite engaging, in a non-singles Pink Floyd circa 1966 kind of way. Take, for example, the organ-heavy (and, we'd venture, Richard Wright-indebted) psych-out "Serif Fires," which we are posting below. The composition meanders, but with a purposeful tunefullness that maps structure and indicates the CBOP cohort has well-developed, collaborative instincts, and/or an ear for the interesting. Have a listen to "Serif Fires" below, and download all of Palindromes right here. Concord Ballet Orchestra Players has two pending gigs, the details of which we are posting below the embed.

06.01 -- P.A.'s Lounge -- Somerville, MA
07.31 -- AS220 -- Providence, RI

>> Our practice is to let our reviewers have the last word on the records and shows they assess. Even so, we are compelled to echo Mr. Piantigini's rave here about the latest album from Dutch indie veterans Bettie Serveert. The record is simply a joy to hear, wherein fronter Carol Van Dyk and her cohort find the perfect balance of sentiment, atmosphere and edge, over and over again. While we waited for Pharmacy Of Love to show up in the racks of our local Newbury Comics outlet, we spent an ample amount of time with the Deny All digital EP from ITunes. And we admit being apprehensive when we dropped the disc next to the cash register that perhaps we were buying a bunch of filler, that said EP was going to have all the hits. But we were wrong. Pharmacy Of Love is lean, not-quite-mean, but wholly compelling, and the non-EP tracks "Love Lee," "The Pharmacy" and "Change4Me" stand among the best of the album. What we are saying is this: buy this record. It is not Palomine, to be sure (nor does it have the amazing dynamic range of Palomine), but in terms of songwriting and consistency, it may be as strong.

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