‘Nootropics’ good but needs more

Published 4:07 pm Friday, April 27, 2012

Lower Dens is not your typical electronic-fueled indie band.

Sure, the band opens with upbeat, catchy melodies on tracks like “Alphabet Song,” a tune that slowly turns spastic with puttering drums and airy synthesizers.

But the Baltimore band slowly morphs to ethereal, spaced drones and unending sounds as the album progresses.

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Along the way, Jana Hunter — a classically trained violinist — leads the group through a strange sea of melodies buried in keyboards and synthesizers.

In fact, Hunter reportedly wrote much of the album in back of a tour van between gigs.

Songs like the instrumental “Stern” embody a kind of deceptively complex structure. The song opens with a driving bass riff that eventually disappears into electronics.

When the melodies lead the way, the album is intoxicating and addicting: You simply can’t turn it off. But, the melodies gradually fizzle into more tones and held out notes.

Take “Lion In Winter Pt. 1” and “Lion In Winter Pt. 2.” The first part is all instrumental, with the song built around a pleasant, subtle string of notes and tones. Part 2 reverts to the poppy, addicting ways of the early tracks.

It’s really a tale of two albums: The pop and the electronic. Both are good, but they leave something to be desired when mixed so drastically.