Grouper’s Way Their Crept – the latest head fuck from Portland, Oregon’s Free Porcupine Society imprint – is the perfect pill to pop on a bleak winter morning. Recorded by Oakland’s Liz Harris, the 40-minute album is a decaying wall of sound that licks and curls like fog off the Bay.
Aside from a couple of ultra-rare CD-Rs, this is the first available Grouper material; yet despite the band’s relative youth they already deserve to be bundled alongside Charalambadies, Tarpis Tula, Skaters and other contemporary space-drone visionaries.
The record’s signature sounds – foghorn guitar tugs, hissing, suspended keyboard tones – are processed into oblivion and strung over the tracks like spider webs. Wordless, looped vocals add an alien iciness and demonstrate the group’s undeniable – if extremely fractured – pop sensibility. The title track is like hearing a hymn through ears filled with glue. On “Hold A Desert, Feel It’s Hand,” suspended keyboard notes provide the backdrop for a building squall of vocal chants. “Second Skin/Zombie Wind” is molten psychedelic sludge, and “Sang Their Way” a zero gravity comedown.
The music develops slowly, demanding attention from the listener. The more one allows these sounds to sink in, the deeper the effect. There is often little holding the songs together other than a few tired tones, yet result is frequently breathtaking. On “Close Cloak,” the crackle of digital crickets is added to counterbalance wide swinging drones of guitar hum and delayed synthesizers. “Second Wind/Zombie Skin” closes the record with the album’s frostiest, most beautiful minutes. Harris’ multi-tracked voices float alongside one another like a chorus of ghosts. Good luck not getting swept away.
By Ethan Covey