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Grouper/Roy Montgomery: Split

Grouper/Roy Montgomery: Split

Label:Root Strata
Release Date:2010
Genre:Indie Rock

By Michael Byrne | Posted 1/27/2010

Liz Harris could sample a nuclear explosion and the net result very well could wind up as soul-deep soothing as the most atmospheric hum she's unassumingly unleashed as Grouper. It's the point received as, toward the end of one her four drone-folk cloudforms here, "Pulse," a dog begins barking-and so encompassing is its surrounding calm that the glaringness (a recording accident, possibly) is smoothed over like pebble subsumed in wet concrete.

Gone are the open but no less haunted drones of earlier Grouper records, the sound of which has evolved into tangible melodies knitting Harris' voice-heavenly rendered sublime but just imperfect enough-with another tactile element, such as guitar or an electric organ of some kind. And then, sonically melt a good portion of it, leaving behind a song almost literally soaking in itself. Harris is currently finding a relative amount of popular success, such as touring with Animal Collective.

Tread through a few years of Grouper-related press, though, and what emerges is what often happens when music writers confront a simple, effective sound: There's not much to say. A litany of adjectives, all saying roughly the same thing: chilly, creepy, ghostly, various things pertaining to fall and/or drizzle. Take your pick, or just note that this is something deafeningly pretty and take Grouper as the remarkably pliable text/sensation that it is.

The record's flip side is a rerecorded live track from New Zealand guitarist Roy Montgomery, who, decades earlier, pioneered a very similar sound to Grouper, projecting pastoral Fahey-esque guitar through My Bloody Valentine ideas of feedback and undertow. It's an addictive track occupying one whole side of this record, reflecting an acoustic guitar onto a foggy drone, and leaving something like a mountain-blue sky crossed with a bar of Xanax.

E-mail Michael Byrne

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