Gauntlet Hair, "Stills"
Gauntlet Hair, "Stills" ( Picasa )
Andy R. (Andy Rauworth) and Craig Nice (Craig Fleischman) left Denver last fall, but they haven't strayed from the experimental lo-fi sound they developed in the city's DIY scene. Back in their native Chicago, they recorded the follow-up to their solid self-titled debut -- a record that showed a lot of promise for a young and fearless duo.

Stills does what you want it to -- what you want a band like this to do -- it tightens up the screws and refines the production without ditching the DIY sound. Their brand of lo-fi isn't as warm and fuzzy, it's cold and tinny. The vocals and guitar have a metallic quality that you wouldn't call polished or shiny.

On “Human Nature,” the droning refrain is “They tell me I make you smile / One time a week,” opening the record on a low note, but an earnest one. The rest follows suit. It's dark and abrasive with just enough upbeat energy to skirt glowering and guitar hooks that permeate the noise.  At times, Stills dives down into some haunting noise depths, like eerie synth-echo chamber and chorus of "oh's" that's coming from beyond the grave. But it picks itself up and out of the mire, too, with songs like “Falling Out” and it's insistent drumming and jagged riffs.

There's noticeably more attention to detail from Gauntlet Hair on Stills, even when the clacking and thumping drums of “Bad Apple” show them sticking to their guns.

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It's what happens when a band sits in a studio with a mind still in the warehouse.