That’s correct, the band is actually called LNZNDRF.  That’s kind of because it comprises of three members – Ben Lanz (from Beirut), Scott Devendorf and Bryan Devendorf (both from The National), i.e. Lanz ‘n’ Dorf, geddit?  Okay, it’s not as snappy a title as, say, CHVRCHES or ALVVAYS – but at least they stood a good chance of registering an internet domain name!568fc380121c7

As side-projects go, they can often be interesting and arty; sometimes they’re disjointed and slightly puzzling.  This album sits kind of somewhere in the middle.  It kicks off with the instrumental track “Future You”, which commences sounding something like an outtake of “Baby Milk Snatcher” from A. R. Kane’s magical album ‘69’.  We’re introduced to layers of distorted guitars, sound effects and dynamics before the drums crash in after some two minutes.  Suddenly, the track becomes Joy Division-esque and very dark indeed.

“Beneath The Black Sea” initially sounds more Death Cab For Cutie than The National.  Add Benjamin Gibbard’s voice and you have the makings of a track from ‘Transatlanticism’.  However, it’s not to be – because the song develops into something else altogether.  As you’d anticipate from two guys who play bass & drums in The National, there’s some great bass & drum work on offer here.  It’s a standout track.  Fast-forward to three minutes in and you’re reminded of just how good the rhythm section for The National is.  The urgency, the dynamics, they’re all contained here within this track.

And so to “Mt. Storm”.  When I first head this track, thoughts of the early-4AD band Dif Juz just wouldn’t go away.  Though the track starts with some very Dif Juz ethereal-sounding guitars, it quickly develops as we hit the chorus, though like a shy girl at a party, it never fully allows itself to let go completely.

I think that fans of The National are likely to be split when it comes to this album.  My overriding feeling is certainly more favourable than not – but the album definitely feels more ‘work-in-progress side-project’ than ‘polished’.  Take “Hypno-Skate”, for instance; the same riff is repeated for some six minutes – and though there’s certainly enough of interest here to hold people’s interest, the lack of vocals and variation on the track would cause even a seriously hardened fan to struggle to admit that it’s up there with either “Start A War” or “England”.

“Samarra” finishes the album and comes across sounding like what The National would sound like if they were to set up shop inside of Doctor Who’s tardis.  There are some pretty whacky sounds on offer – and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d admitted to raiding the BBC’s sound archive library for some of these noises.  Imagine taking some serious brain-muddling drugs and wandering into a nightclub in just your underpants – that’s what this track sounds like some four minutes in.  Seriously weird.

Albums such as this are always interesting as they offer a a glimpse of what makes the musicians tick and why their main band is so special.  There are definite glimpses here – particularly during “Beneath The Black Sea” and “Mt. Storm”, but whether there’s enough content and variation of ideas is perhaps another discussion.

~Released on Feb 19th.  Initial copies of the vinyl release are available as a clear vinyl limited-edition

Paul Lockett

 

 

 

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