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Album Review
Twin Hand Movement

Twin Hand Movement
by Lower Dens


Review Date
23rd November 2010
Reviewed by
Paul Gallagher

I remember the first time I really began to take notice of Jana Hunter's music, after coming across a low quality mp3 of her track Restless while online at my parent's place during summer between semesters. It's the type of moment of clarity that many music fans have, when you tap into something that will stay with you for years to come - finding an artist that reaches out to you on a level that's more personable and endearing than the vast majority of others. In the 6-years I've been listening to her music, Hunter has never failed to strike me to the core. There are influential musicians that exist on a personal level for various reasons for everyone who even considers themselves aficionados of music. Myself, I have a small cluster that sit ranked above the rest - Phil Elverum, Julie Doiron, Heather Lewis, Stefan Neville, Jamie Stewart, Kate Bush (not kidding), and Jana Hunter. For me, her music is personal. 

For a fairly diminutive figure, Jana Hunter's had a pretty extensive presence in recent years - along with her split release with Devendra Banhart (on sweet yellow vinyl!), she's also made guest appearances working as a member of or alongside such luminaries as Jracula, Matteah Baim, Metallic Falcons, Coco Rosie, Phosphorescent and Vetiver. It all adds up to a significant pedigree, and a relevant one at that. Her solo albums, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom (the first ever release on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label in 2005) was a creeping, quietly solemn affair that stole hearts of those who happened to hear it, before her stronger, bolder There's No Home (Gnomonsong, 2007) brought her to the attention of more and more music lovers. But following the Carrion EP (Gnomonsong / Woodsist, 2007), made up largely of out-tracks from There's No Home, she kind of disappeared somewhat, away from the limelight. 

But while I am obviously heaping praise on Jana Hunter's music, I have to confess to jarring feelings of trepidation when I heard that her latest record would be with a full band which she picked together after setting up shop in Baltimore (which, to be fair, most of us only really know about because of the Wire and the notorious Baltimore Club scene). But it's an area that's fostered many an intriguing musical project over the last few years - Beach House, the Wham City crew / Dan Deacon, Ponytail to name just a few. The new group of Hunter plus three works to immerse her particularly flavour of understated songwriting into the haze of dreamy rock or shoe-gaze methods that perhaps its always been intended for. 

Twin Hand Movement still holds much of the slow-burning charm of Hunter's solo work - there is the forever building tensions, the cosy immediate guitar work, the wandering vocals. Rosie is a track that I'm going come out and proclaim as my song of 2010. It is a contemplative gesture of guitar work, before an utterly blissful break into pop-driven shimmer squalor, with Hunter's vocals endearingly fighting above the din of drum staccato and sweeping guitars. Beautiful. There are so many other stand out tracks on this album though - including Tea Lights and Hospice Gates, the two songs that have received the most support from the blogosphere. Lead single I Get Nervous is also stellar, working love into strings as she sings to an unknown recipient of adoration that she's weakest while 'just a-standing in your pretty presence' in a way that's fragile and humble and utterly Jana Hunter. 

Now about to kick off a European tour with close to 30 shows lined up across many countries, we can only hope that one day soon Jana Hunter et al will make their way down to New Zealand. It's a shoe-gazy, wandering glitterball style of music that has always been able to blow me away - and while I'm sure that it certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, there's likely more than a few people out there who don't know about Jana Hunter's work that will be lit up as I've been. Twin Hand Movement's by far the best recent record I've come across that could carry me over the threshold of a lazy summer. It's definitely worth the gamble, and well worth the listen. Trust me! 


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