LNZNDRF are a trio formed of Ben Lanz (Beirut), Scott Devendorf and Bryan Devendorf (The National) and are the latest in the fashionable side projects craze sweeping the music world. I cant profess to being overly familiar with either band’s earlier work, but on hearing the minimalist yet huge sound they managed to produce on Beneath the Black Sea, they piqued my interest. The trio reputedly formed in Auckland, New Zealand in 2011 and their eponymous LP, is their official début.
Their live shows are mostly improvised and carrying on that tradition, LNZNDRF was recorded in a church in Cincinnati over the space of 2 and a half days and the 8 tracks are the production of editing 30+ minute jams. The resulting tracks are epic, raw and rarely less than a radio unfriendly 6 minutes in length – something that I haven’t experienced since Metallica’s Master of Puppets yet their styles couldn’t be further apart.
As a whole, their music is simple, yet mesmerisingly hypnotic and while vocals play a part, largely instrumental. Where vocals do play a part, they are short, repetitive snippets which purely compliment the instruments rather than forming a focal point of the tracks. In fact, with all the parts being so well crafted and fundamental to each piece, it’s difficult to locate a focal point at all.
After the 7 minute instrumental opener, Future You, which in reality serves as little more than an epic intro, the most notable tracks on the album are the aforementioned Beneath the Black Sea and Kind Things. The former holds all of the above true, instruments interweaving themselves and the vocals form more of a bass chord drone reciting “time time time time, time’s a moving, in twos” with little else lyrically, it falls on the music to hold your interest and despite it’s near 7 minute length, it does just that. Kind Things follows later and somewhat shorter, the lyrics are sung in a high pitch reminiscent of Beck’s ‘Deborah’ during stops, but the drone remains with the words keeping them in line with the instrumentals. The melody comes with fluctuating “ah’s” hovering over the instrumental. It’s much shorter than it’s predecessors at short of 4 minutes and is likely the only track with any commercial potential, but I get the feeling that’s not what this album is all about.
The LP’s a good egg, an enjoyable listen and a notably different and refreshing approach to recording which has borne some excellent fruit. It does however due to it’s waxing and waning repetitive nature, allow the listener to switch off for a minute without missing much. Furthermore, without lyrical basis or any real melodial complexity or theme, it doesn’t illicit any kind of emotional response from me. Personally, I like to feel something when I hear music so it feels like it’s missing a big chunk of something special.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this album a lot, but after a time I think it may become background music and without the commercial appeal, I can see this becoming one for the cult fans of Beirut and The National, making a plop in a big pond rather than waves.