Grouper - Dragging A Dead Dear Up A Hill
Some albums just grab you right away. I'll admit it, I had an interest in Grouper's 2008 release, Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill, prior to even listening to the music. The startling yet reposed, stark yet elegant album art captivated my eyes, while the haunting album title met my intrigue. This is Portland, Oregon's Liz Harris' third album under her artistic outlet, called Grouper, and to my surprise I found that its music is as effectively mesmerizing and enveloping as the album's outer aesthetics.
Opening with "Disengaged," the listener slowly approaches a booming wall of static, which is slowly muffled out by Liz Harris's hauntingly elegiac voice, singing like a choir over heavily stricken piano notes. Harmonizing with the piano's trembling chords, Harris' voice is lucid and beautiful, juxtaposing the layers of slowly resonating distortion, which ultimately overpowers and swallows her voice. "Disengaged" is a perfect example of the production of Dragging; it sounds as if the album were recorded outdoors near a lake, as its hauntingly airy resonance creates an aural atmosphere with a natural, almost effortless delicacy.
The gentle acoustic guitar strumming of "Heavy Water/I'd Rather be Sleeping" continues Grouper's melancholically evocative dream-pop, as harmonies cascade over a heavy layer of sonic noise (depicting the sensation of water submerging, or trapping, the listener in a dreamlike state.) The dramatic effect of Grouper's songs proves that this is more than just music to fall asleep or space out to; it is a tidal wave of emotions, a beautifully haunting series of images that is not muddled with over-production or incongruous ambient effects. You have probably never heard of Grouper, but give this album a shot; it's one of the better releases of 2008.
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