Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grouper - 'Dragging A Dead Deer'

Music / Review / Capsule

Album: Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
Artist(s): Grouper
Year: 2008

Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill is the third album by Portland noisemaker Lizz Harris, moniker Grouper, and though considerably more accessible (one can actually understand a good deal of what Harris is saying) Deer is still just as reclusive and mysterious as the artist's previous two outings. That isn't necessarily a bad thing-- the echoey soundscapes, punctuated by almost rhythmic acoustic squeaks, create a compelling and nuanced atmosphere-- but there's little variation to the sound Harris sustains. As such, though much of Deer is gorgeous, haunting even, as many have suggested, cuts like "Track 3," which drones on for exactly six minutes, can feel more grating than anything else. Not so in regard to album highlight "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping," which is easily the most melodic and structured track here; a song more indebted to 90s dream pop than anything else, and a direction Harris would do well to gravitate towards. It's the longer compositions, like "Track 3" and "Tidal Wave" (a refrain repeated in 'Heavy Water,' suggesting perhaps a cyclical nature) that tend to become monotonous and, frankly, boring. It's hard to deny that there's a certain endearing quality found in even the most sparse and repetitive cuts, and I also find interesting the way in which this album intends to evoke nature, evidenced in the track titles (the words 'snow,' 'wave,' 'bird,' 'water,' 'wind,' 'sea,' and, uh, 'deer' all appear here, and that's just the titles, to say nothing of the lyrics which continue the theme). Still, pursuit of a certain mystique and moodiness does not excuse what often struck me as unfocused and indulgent musicianship. There are moments on Deer that live up to the promise of 'Heavy Water,' but too often Harris is content drifting along aimlessly, which doesn't exactly make for the most rewarding or cohesive listening.

Grade: 2/4

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