Review Summary: Portland's own shoegazing queen teams up with New Zealand dream-pop royalty for an all around worthwhile investment of an EP.
Over the past few years, after Liz Harris, or better known as, Grouper, released her third LP Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
, she attained a certain level of (severely)warranted success. Expanded tour, album sales, and it was very well received critically, even so here at our very own Sputnik Music, Harris was turning heads. Specifically the head of New Zealand dreamy guitar-pop savant Roy Montgomery, who’s again stepping out of the shadows (or really away from his lecture podium) to lay down a whole lot of woozy, droned, psychedelic guitar riffs, and luckily nabs Liz for the ride.
This split EP begins with Montgomery’s side, which is comprised of a single eighteen minute long track. A live re-recording of somewhat of a cult classic, that is a collection of dreamy effect laden guitar strumming that is all at once simplistic and inviting while toting some big screen ambitions; the song is massive. “Fantasia On a Theme By Sandy Bull (Slight Return)” is an elegant, whimsical piece of work, that is still just as easy to get lost in, which would be expected from Montgomery, and he certainly delivers. The song is an assortment of carefully planned movements, and even though is it essentially just Roy on the guitar, he keeps the pace motivated and the music interesting, as the absurd run-time breezes by pretty effortlessly. The haziness of the whole thing affords the song a sense of etherealness, much like that of split, and foggy-folk compatriot Grouper, the track is almost lifted by the effervescence of the effects, ascertaining the integral intergradients of great psychedelic-pop -- by the balls.
Grouper’s half is a four track contribution of all new material, and she pretty much picks up right where she left off with Dead Deer
, quality wise; presenting dreamy yet dreary shoegaze inspired folk filled to the brim with beautiful melodies, reverb, and fuzz. Her side of the split is four tracks, but really consists of two songs with separated movements. “Hollow Press” begins the first section off with a some foley of what seems to be wind blowing through a field, eventually Harris floats in, multi-tracking her voice in beautiful choice coos, coupled with the backing fuzz, the song has the air of a message from beyond the grave. It flows seamlessly into “Vessel,” a coy, almost innocent droney-folk ballad, finding Harris giving her real only semi-lyrical performance on the album, her croons and whispers glide effortlessly between the reverb drenched guitar jamming. “Hold The Way/Pulse” begins with whimsical wayward strums, peaking with Harris’ heart-wrenching performance (impressive for lack of any real “lyrics”) and exiting again with serene foley work. Leaving much in the way Grouper arrived, brazen and barren, almost beautiful in the sense of loss.
By the end you can see the direct line between the two artists, not that it’s anything but blatant, just that a split between these two was a surprise that seemed almost bound to happen. Bonus is the EP as a whole is a hell of a deal, being that it’s thirty-five minutes of really good music from two artists trying to establish themselves. One because she never really
has, the other, because sometimes we need a reminder of why anyone cared in the first place.