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L.A.'s Division Day breaks with dreamy debut, embraces murky, eerie, supernatural

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Bands involve a lot of "hurry up and wait," and musicians endure plenty of sitting in vans and green rooms before showtime, but like any race, it's all a matter of endurance.

Division Day's almost ran out, but the four-piece took some extra time, recharged the batteries and reinvented itself with a new album, "Visitation."

The band is comprised of a trio of childhood friends who recruited a fourth and started playing while attending college eight years ago. It was mostly a summer side project until singer/keyboardist Rohner Segnitz moved back to Los Angeles after graduating, prompting the group to make an effort in earnest. It created a dreamy, sometimes bristling debut that blends Grandaddy, Radiohead and Polvo, self-releasing it a year later, in 2005. Indie label Eenie Meenie picked it up in 2007, giving "Beartrap Island" a proper release, which necessitated additional touring to support the album.

"By that time, the material was pretty old to us. It was challenging to still be touring that material," Segnitz said. "It was draining, so by the time that was over, we were pretty burned out. We had to take some time and figure out how we were going to recapture some excitement " what we were going to do to reinvent our process."

He said the members all agreed that they wanted to write and record something "strikingly different" from its previous efforts, but had trouble distilling their ideas into a tangible concept.

"There was a lot of bandying adjectives without actually having a terribly concrete idea of what that would sound like as music," Segnitz said.

SOUNDS FAMILIAR
Released in August, "Visitations" still sounds familiar, thanks to Segnitz's breathy croon and the deep grooves that drive the proceedings, but otherwise, it's a dramatic departure. Gone are the bursts of punky aggression and the bright, shimmering atmospheres, replaced by an eerie, percussive shamble that wades into murky eddies of guitar chop, crashing against waves of swirling keyboard. The songs boast a supernatural flair from a horse figurine that comes to life ("Malachite") to the title-track arrival of a Satanic presence and strange occult kitchen ceremonies ("Chalk Lines"). The record's bleak tone suggests the pall of Joy Division pulled by a deep-seated rhythmic undertow beneath cloudy night sky textures.

The bulk of the material was written by Segnitz in his home studio, rather than in the band's practice space or worked out at live shows. He'd generally avoided recording demos before, due to an "aversion to making things that are by design not that great," but the front man ended up pouring a lot of time into finding a result with which he could be satisfied. The preproduction and early arranging helped when Division Day finally returned to the studio as a group, providing a bevy of sounds and ideas to cull from, and saving time when significant demo material ended up on the album. With a collective emphasis on performing and musicianship rather than writing, Segnitz and the boys created an album with a more unified tone.

"The demo for 'Reservoir' ended up being for me a sort of totem for a new sonic palette " a piece of the emotional spectrum that we could aim for," Segnitz said. "That's more of a musical thing, but then also 'Chalk Lines' was written fairly early, and so was kind of a defining moment in figuring out what's going to be at the root of this record in terms of lyrical metaphor. It sort of laid it out, the idea of borders getting transgressed in everyday life in ways that are unusual or unsettling, and using that as a metaphor for personal growth."

While the band is happy with the results, Segnitz said "Visitations" has posed other, unforeseen difficulties.

"The challenge of presenting the material live is more substantial than it has been in the past. We've had to get pretty ambitious," he said. "But on the whole. it's very exciting. It's certainly nice to be out touring new material."

Division Day with Rude Rachel and Hundredsomethings perform at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. "Chris Parker

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