Liz Harris, who records as Grouper, fits into the genre I like to call “forest music.” Her new album, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, is the epitome of “wandering through a vast, deserted wilderness-accompaniment.” Layered vocals, haunting echoes, and Harris’ PJ Harvey White Chalk-esque melancholy make for a sparse, rustic, and incredibly remarkable album.


“Disengaged,” the opening track, sounds like it was recorded in a lagoon, with the distortion embracing underwater tones.

The album’s best cut, “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping,” plays like a pond-side dream. Harris’ soothing voice paints wondrous isolation. This leads into “Stuck,” which emphasizes ethereal instrumentation and Harris’ longing hymns.

“Traveling Through a Sea”  and “Tidal Wave” accurately depict what it’s like to be overpowered by the deep blue.

The album’s woodland quality is reinforced with “Fishing Bird (Gutted In the Evening Breeze)” and “Invisible.” It’s not hard to imagine Harris performing these great tracks among limitless trees and a pile of soggy leaves.

“I’m Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill” is the most sonically dark on the record. It seems like the score to a hunter’s kill. But, it could be a metaphor for Harris’ own angst. “Dead deer” could be a lost love or lost individuality.

“A Cover Over” is the first semi-straightforward acoustic attempt by Harris. However, the next track is a second, completely opposite version of “A Cover Over,” one that feels like an amalgamation of creepy night sounds.

The closer, “We’ve All Gone to Sleep,” is Harris’ emersion from her lonely journey through beautifully barren backwoods. 

The lyrics on the album are often secondary to the gorgeous music and Harris’ affecting wail. Still, this album proves simple, emotional music speaks for itself.

Anyone up for a nature walk?

Go to Grouper’s MySpace to stream some tracks.

Harris is also touring with Animal Collective for its summer tour.

~ Mike Estabrook

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