Posted on March 26th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Nick Manai

Jana Hunter first made herself known as a part of Devendra Banhart's “freak-folk” movement. The Texas native was perfectly suited for a career as a lyrical gypsy, her unique voice always able to match subject matter for eerie twang and evocative texture. However, in 2010 Hunter started Lower Dens with the debut Twin-Hand Movement, and it is difficult to imagine anyone predicting this transformation to evolve in such a consistently rich trajectory.

Twin-Hand Movement wore many of the trademarks of a debut. It relied heavily on drums, bass and electric guitars, but was able to stand out for the way Hunter’s often thinly lucid vocals could trip the guidelines. However, the sudden, rich exploration of the band's 2010 release, Nootropics, was stunning. They were able to combine much of the organic roots that made Twin easy to love with a study in dreamy krautrock flourishes. It was expressive and bold, but incredibly mature and well-constructed for an artist with Hunter’s whimsical roots.

Escape From Evil follows very much in the aesthetic movements of Nootropics. The major players ready for top billing are harrowing synths, slowly climactic piano chords, and loose drum loops. On the opener, “Sucker’s Shangri-La,” Hunter’s vocals step out from a cloud of '80s organ fills with delicately piercing piano notes. As she sings, “family fortune / is going up in flames / child, this is not what you’ve been waiting for,” you can feel the end of the rope in her voice, the grim reality that is balanced only with the comfort that this was never what you were supposed to want anyway.

If there is any kind of complaint within Escape From Evil, it is the way the enchanting verses can spiral down into choruses that reach higher than they grasp. Hunter’s phrasing and writing seem more adept at speaking to you directly, on a roll that can’t be stopped due to the momentum desire has been perpetuating. On “Ondine” the chorus, in juxtaposition, sounds like playacting. A repetition to stand in its rightful place.

“Electric Current” and “Non Grata” accentuate the differences that have sprung up in the Baltimore group since their first release. Guitars and drums lightly punctuate the carousel, but even with the new reliance on electronic fills, it is Hunter’s vocals standing at the pivot, turning us around and around.

The single, “To Die in L.A.” mixes Lower Dens’ most playful beats with Hunter’s raspiest turn behind the mike. The imagery and texture couldn’t be clearer. To escape from evil, to survive death in L.A., we’re going to dance in its midst and never blink an eye. All in all, Escape From Evil is not an album to miss.

Track List:

  1. Sucker's Shangri-La
  2. Ondine
  3. To Die in L.A.
  4. Quo Vadis
  5. Your Heart Still Beating
  6. Electric Current
  7. I Am the Earth
  8. Non Grata
  9. Company
  10. Societe Anonyme
Lower Dens - Escape From Evil Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

77 / 100
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