Grizzly Bear
Horn Of Plenty

By Ed Chamberlin

 
Deep Sea Diver opens this album with a collection of submerged, static drones and muffled vocals reminiscent of Can’s Future Days. It introduces all of the elements the listener is about to experience over the next fifty minutes, albeit reconstituted, rearranged and fucked with into whatever shapes Edwin Droste and Christopher Bear see fit; laconic guitar strums, vocals transmitted through some crappy ham radio and (rarely, for the record) booming drums to take the song to its hazy conclusion. someone even cuts the tape to ribbons for a little IDM effect as the procession of sounds disappears into the night.

Normally it would be ill-advised to bring out all your tricks in one track, but Grizzly Bear’s tracks seem to gain their impact from what’s left out, rather than what’s in them. Which is not surprising for an album that was originally a bunch of naked acoustic demos subsequently produced into something fuller.

Don’t Ask, apart from boasting one of the most devastatingly sad descending vocal melodies ever, benefits from avoiding all input other than vocals, guitar and strange high pitched tones that inhabit the track like a benevolent ghost.

In fact, the entire album seems slightly haunted, the music always contains some rogue sound: an eerie tape loop, disembodied drumming and other drones. even the vocals seem to have appeared on the record by chance, leaving guitar and piano as the only instruments to offer a solid base for the songs. This is best illustrated on Campfire, another highlight. The simple guitar figure is nothing special, but the background sound effects and drumming, which sounds on the verge of collapsing with exhaustion, have a disorienting effect, which is even more pronounced when, out of nowhere, shimmering piano and a gently pleading vocal chant turn the tune on its head. The transition from one half of the song to another is so hazy that you feel you hallucinated the first half, or perhaps you’re dreaming the second half – something just isn’t right.

Of course, all this trickery calls to mind Animal Collective, and Grizzly Bear do indeed sound like them. But whereas you can honestly barely imagine Avey Tare and Panda Bear living anywhere except in an enchanted forest (an impression that still isn’t shaken off when you see them in concert wearing jeans and t-shirts like normal humans), Grizzly Bear are still very much from the world we inhabit.

But they still strive for the far-off feeling, trying to project themselves so far away from the listener and expressing such cryptic emtions that you sometimes feel left out of proceedings, as though you are observing some fanatics re-enacting a scene from a film you are not aware of. Therefore, songs that often have potential fall flat or are just plain annoying as on the far-too-repetitive hymn of Showcase.

Other songs do a very good job, such as the sweet Merge and A Good Place, and Eavesdropping, which sounds like a collaboration between Will Oldham, David Pajo and Bill Callahan. Worth it for those moments without a doubt.
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