Following the path of their Danish music brethren such as Iceage and VÅR, Lower, the “downer punk” quartet based in the Scandinavian post-punk/hardcore hub of Copenhagen, is the most recent of the Nordic outfits to be making music blog news. The band first came onto the international scene with the short, four-track EP, Walking On Heads. And in those mere nine minutes, Lower embroiled listeners in lo-fi aesthetics and thrashing distorted riffs, conveying a sense of bleakness matched only by the dismally grey skies of their homeland. However, on this debut LP, Seek Warmer Climes, the band demonstrates its growth from angst-driven punks to thematic artists (although still retaining enough angst) by having developed and refined their musical style, as well as further grasped the emotions that are intertwined within the songs’ depths.
They’ve esentially have transitioned from pure hardcore punk towards vintage post-punk and No Wave influences (tinges of Joy Division, early Sonic Youth). Rather than the simple jabs of distortion heard on Walking On Heads, here Lower predominantly indulges in a more depressive tempo, with a sense of lethargy enveloping the listener. The album single, Lost Weight, Perfect Skin, is carried along by an elongated two-note riff, creating the dissonance that keeps the listener on pins and needles while yearning for the next note. Over that foundation, vocalist Adrian Touboro cries out agonizingly, “Lost weight, perfect skin/Will bring the torment to an end/Put the smile back on my lips.”
The band finds its strength in stretching each note or chord to just before the point of an auditory mess, managing to dismember the base hardcore sounds and give Touboro an anxious platform to comment on his social insecurities and vanities while still maintaining a sense of urgency. This technique is exemplified perfectly by Expanding Horizons (Dar es Salaam). On the track, Touboro recounts the depth of emotions he experienced when traveling to South Africa on a missionary trip with the optimism of helping the world, only to find himself alienated and nearly a victim of kidnapping in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam. The sharp, rattling chords and dirge-like bassline fill the background with unease and depression, complementing Touboro’s autobiographical account, flush with fear and the shattering of his youthful idealism. “Drag your body to a corner/Caress yourself/Curl up on a cushion/Caress yourself,” Touboro bemoans, with the emotions seeming to bear down onto the listener too.
While drawn-out discordance dominates Seek Warmer Climes’ overall aesthetic, Lower includes a few tracks of a similar style to Walking On Heads. In addition to a direct import from the EP (Craver), tracks like the album opener Another Life and Dart Persuasion echo the fast hardcore spirit. The former begins with a thunderous drum pattern, accented by its bouncing bassline and spiraling guitar riff. Dart Persuasion, on the other hand, continues the opening track’s fast-paced rhythm, but it seems to convolute itself by featuring several extraneous, noisy riffs that distract from the track’s lyrics, one of the album’s most powerful facets. Although Soft Option further offers a kick to the general moodier maliase, the song itself awkwardly sticks out on the album. With a steady rock tempo and sense of emptiness, Touboro lackadaisically vocalizes the thoughts of one of the parties involved in an emotionally strenuous fight. Lyrically, the song meshes with the rest of the album, but sonically it seems misplaced, some middle ground between the two extremes of the album.
Closing with Arrows, the slow, metallic guitar riffs underneath Touboro vocals once again recalls the dominant style that has successfully pervaded the album. Touboro himself concedes to the band’s development, bellowing the lyrics, “Forget about your former self/And when you’ve philosophized/For a while/Found a mantra to live by/Then return to these shores/Return.” For those with a narrow vision of Lower, expecting an LP that was merely a longer version of Walking On Heads, the album might prove to be a disappointment. However, for those open to the necessity of the band’s growth, Seek Warmer Climes proves to be a truly encouraging step in the band’s development.