REVIEW: Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (2008)

Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill opens with Disengaged, an appropriately titled grief-riddled song popular to certain streaming algorithms. Every note is obscured in muddied overdrive and cavernous reverb. Unlike the music it serves so well, it’s an artistic choice that is far from subtle.

By synth or silence, tracks flow seamlessly into the next. After Disengaged, the listener is treated to a suite of dreamy acoustic guitar oriented songs, layers upon layers of delicate vocal tracks serve more as a chorus than self-backing. Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill is a floral tapestry of ethereal agony. It’s psychedelic doom channeled through folk and singer/songwriter sensibilities.

Grouper is Liz Harris, an American musician born in 1980 and raised in a Fourth Way commune in the Bay Area of California. This, and how she chose the name Grouper (members of the commune were called “groupers”) is an oft echoed anecdote of her life in which the greater story of Grouper’s work is generally affixed to by fans and reporters alike.

Pulled from a 2008 article by Cary Clarke for the Portland Mercury, a quote from Harris: “I guess this album partly ended up being me thinking about the past, and the way we carry around the dead festering weight of it for a long time, or I did anyway, and how maybe we have to leave it off somewhere at some point, even if the ghosts of its carcass come back to haunt and talk to us at night.”

The album crashes to a close with engulfing waves of delay on track Tidal Wave before drifting away on the outgoing tide that is We’ve All Gone To Sleep.

For fans of: Chelsea Wolfe, Cocteau Twins, Snail Mail

Like Grouper? Give these a listen: Charlie Megira, Last Frost, Polyphonic Shooting Spree

REVIEW: András Cséfalvay – Funeral The Musical And Another Tabletop Opera (2013)

A creepy voice pronounces the word “prologue” in a way I’ve never quite heard it pronounced before. Maybe it’s British, maybe they’re born with it. No time for such sociolinguistical mysteries! Suddenly we’re off under waves of heavy but simple organ. Suddenly there it is again. A voice not entirely unlike Noel Fielding as the goth Richmond Avenal on sitcom The IT Crowd.

At times goofy, there is a level of showmanship that shouldn’t go unappreciated. A few motifs make up the entire work, differentiated by various keyboard settings. But even with the goofy lyrical speech of tracks such as Wormsong and National Ændthem (the latter of which being an intensely melodramatic reworking of The Star-Spangled Banner), Funeral The Musical is a genuinely spooky and haunting adventure in grief and death.

Funeral The Musical may not be such foreign territory for those in puppetry and carnival/freak show revivalist circles, but to those who haven’t lived in one of the hundreds of cities with a ‘Keep ____ Weird’ sticker, well, it may actually be pretty ground breaking stuff.

For fans of: Nurse With Wound, Cornbugs, the videos of David Firth

Like András Cséfalvay? Give these a listen: Myles Manley, Cal Folger Day, Concetta Abbate

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