Lower Dens, Horse Lords go synth pop, nuts respectively on split single

Lower Dens/Horse Lords

LAMC Vol. 9 split single (mp3/vinyl)

Famous Class

This is the second Baltimore-centric entry in the LAMC split-single series (named after the Less Artists More Condos concerts thrown by Ariel Panero, a partner in Famous Class, in memory of him). The first, from last July, featured Ed Schrader's Music Beat and Future Islands. This one finds two of the city's more buzzed-about rock units taking up residence in slightly new realms. "Non Grata" is less operatic krautrock Nootropics Lower Dens than lowered-blinds VHS synth-pop Lower Dens. The beats stab uber-metronomically; the curt, interlocking keyboards are machine-tooled within an inch of their lives; Jana Hunter's baritone presents as extra-rich and Eurythmics-husky. A muted tempo and gauzey guitars transform the song into a stilted sort of lullaby, albeit one that we imagine was sung to a shackled paramour by a spurned lover in the moments prior to some exotic demise.

"Bending to the Lash," meanwhile, proves to be Horse Lords' shortest head-scratcher to date and its hardest to peg. In a fleeting four minutes and 20 seconds, we get a brace of dissonance, taut-cable, post-Shellac bass grooves, and hypnotic keyboard Rorschach blots, percussion so deftly reedy that it'd be right at home on Jonny Greenwood's Bodysong soundtrack, then, abruptly, an off-the-cuff field recording that seems to dismiss all that preceded it. If anything, "Lash"-a Tortoise/Plums mashup if ever there was one-feels tantalizingly incomplete, which might just be the whole point.

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