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Grouper - Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

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Artist: Grouper

Album: Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

Label: Type

Review date: Jul. 23, 2008

Liz Harris – a.k.a. Grouper – creates pop songs where the structure is merely hinted at, making it difficult to decide whether her amorphous drones resemble songs or visa versa. On earlier releases, she was awash in reverb, disguising much of her tunes’ shapes, hiding melody in trance. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill continues the minimal whisperings of past LPs, but also features strummed acoustic guitar. Lots of it.

Perhaps there is something to be said for the comparisons to 4AD's Scottish dream-pop gods, the Cocteau Twins. The melancholy is there, as is the elastic, unintelligible voice that, once the similarity has been suggested, might slightly resemble the Twins’ Liz Fraser. Yet, Grouper doesn't sound as obviously from a particular time or place. Instead, with or without the fuzzy ambiance, her songs meander unhurriedly, as if their original intentions got lost somewhere along the way, so caught up is she in the repetitive motion of strumming.

"Disengaged" opens the album in a fog of electricity before clutter gives way to acoustics. "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" and "Stuck" sound like fast and slow versions of each other. Her lyrics remain unintelligible moans, her voice narcotic, and perhaps a bit wounded. There's as much Chan Marshall or Georgia Hubley here as there is aforementioned Fraser.

By the midway point of the album, everything seems enveloped in a haze that no amount of volume is able to clarify. The guitar playing sounds like the work of someone with scant knowledge of chords, and, like a subdued version of John Cale's "Summer Heat," seems to revel more in the sound of the notes than in whatever melody they might create.

Despite all these potential distractions, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill remains, quite simply, a beautiful album, possibly because. Harris feels so comfortable in her own skin. By choosing to not rise above the clamor, she ends up finding the center.

By Bruce Miller

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