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Grouper: Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

Grouper: Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

Release Date:2008

By Michael Byrne | Posted 8/20/2008

The story goes that Grouper even reaching listeners beyond her bedroom is an accident--an overheard recording becomes her first record-label release becomes an Aquarius Records "Record of the Week," and Grouper's Liz Harris becomes a known and much appreciated public artist (among the more discriminating and patient music fans, anyhow). It's one of the most fortunate accidents to happen to these ears in some time.

It all does sounds like so much heaven. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, her fifth effort, is a somewhat more song-based record than earlier work that relied on drones first. But it still does drone, and that's a big part of what makes these songs so poignant (the other being drop-dead gorgeous melodies). The basic structure of the music on Hill is consistent: Her voice and guitar play as solid objects--shaped into melancholic, masterful, and simple melodies--in the composition, while a resonant cloud, a soft drone, shifts and pulls from below. It's hard to put your finger on what that drone cloud is composed of or where its definitions lay, but it feels something like a painting placed half in/half out of water--its tactile self is soaking in its own dissolution.

This idea is in gradation through the album. "Tidal Wave" barely emerges from the fog--her voice, almost wordless, and guitar drift along the cloud surface, never sure if they're a part of it or rising out. Yes, that's a guitar strum that peeks out, letting us know that there's a real live human at the heart of this, and not the phantom the song almost makes you believe in; it's peculiarly displaced. At the opposite end of the album's gradient is gem "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping"--Harris' voice rises, shows she has formidable range, and carries the song far away from fog or clouds. Pretty doesn't begin to suffice.

E-mail Michael Byrne

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