Live Review

Deerhunter + Lower Dens, Oran Mor, Glasgow

This is pop music, but not quite as we know it.

Maryland four-piece Lower Dens, led from the side of the stage by the androgynous Jana Hunter, do that rare thing of making the conventional line up of guitars, bass and drums sound innovative while at the same time not disguising their influences. Playing in support tonight with tracks from their album ‘Twin-Hand Movement’, they open with ‘I Get Nervous’, its chiming guitar line becoming almost sitar-like.

‘Tea Lights’’ spare but effective drone is typical of their precise use of noise and understated containment. They avoid the clichés bands can fall back on when using guitar feedback, transcending the mundane.

There is nothing whatsoever mundane about Deerhunter. Bradford Cox, the skinny mastermind of this inarguably tight band, presides over a bank of at least a dozen effects pedals and at the opposite side of the stage, guitarist Lockett Pundt has an array of at least as many again at his feet.

Deerhunter attract a devoted crowd and Glasgow greets them with enthusiasm from the outset. This dedication is rewarded with a new song “written in the soundcheck” entitled ‘Glasgow 90’, just in case you didn’t think Cox was prolific enough.

‘Desire Lines’, the first of several songs from last year’s ‘Halcyon Digest’, builds into a soaring piece of modern psychedelia with Pundt taking lead vocals. Cox creates a feedback loop using his metal harmonica stand for the intro to ‘Memory Boy’, where guitars twinkle and shine. ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ is dedicated to an uberfan in the front row and pleases the audience.

Drummer Moses Archuleta provides a consistent backing, with motorik drumming reminiscent of Neu or Stereolab, a counterpoint to the controlled distortion of the guitarists. This is particularly evident on ‘Nothing Ever Happened’, from ‘Microcastle’. Cox builds up a wall of sound and then brings it down to merge it into lines from Patti Smith’s ‘Land / Horses’. Insistent but never frantic, he plays the fret board with his fingers until he creates a full on wig out.

A blast of distortion gives way to the glass guitar noises of ‘Helicopter’. This is pop music, but not quite as we know it. Making melodic use of effects, rather than just aiming for noise for its own sake, ‘He Would Have Laughed’ becomes a dizzying storm, playful yet restrained in the right places. Cox and Pundt close the show with an ambient improvisation, crouched at their pedals they fill the room with volume, keeping melodic structure throughout and leaving a room full of ringing, yet satisfied pairs of ears.

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