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Words By: Chris Pacifico
In 2004, Grizzly Bear was solely the nom de guerre of Edward Droste. In his Brooklyn apartment he cut Horn of Plenty (Kanine Records), a fun album designed to hand out to buddies, it quickly became one of 2004's left field gems. Horn of Plenty managed to create a sluggish aura of ameliorated lo-fi droning and static like a Library of Congress archival discovery yet pastoral enough to come off as fresh.
With their sophomore release, Yellow House (released 9/5/06 on Warp Records), Grizzly Bear earned slots on many a journalists' 2006 Top Ten lists including that of The New York Times. Yellow House makes it tricky to determine whether Grizzly Bear had undergone a phase of evolution or rebirth. On one hand, there's the addition of new members Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor (who also produced it) and Christopher Bear, who delicately ornamented the final mix on Horn of Plenty. On the other hand, the sound and aesthetic of Yellow House took a significant step forward both instrumentally and harmonically with most of the Brooklyn quartet's seasoned fans still able to tell it's a Grizzly Bear album. "We kind of think of this as our first album since it was the four of us making it," says Taylor.
Nary has an album in modern times touched upon a precise sonic middle ground akin to the terrain and progression that Yellow House gently wafts through in a manner that's lavish and colorful yet not too polished. "I respected and enjoyed the production aesthetic on Horn of Plenty. I knew a lot of people that liked Grizzly Bear. They liked the lower-fi aesthetic so I didn't want to clean it up, so to speak, because that's not usually my approach anyway. But, I didn't want it to sound like all clean signals," explains Taylor, detailing his production plan while munching on cashews. "In general, I was experimenting a lot with various production techniques and affecting things, trying to create this sonic space that's got a lot of different qualities and textures."
Chris Taylor - Grizzly Bear
By Christie Harrison
The arrangements are skeletal to the naked ear yet the tracks manage to perch on a cloud that coasts over breezy, elastic baroque pop tundra's with lush orchestral ambience opulent enough to snag a Tony Award nomination. The four-part augmented harmonies led by Droste and Taylor sprawl effervescently. Yellow House has moments that sound like the greatest album Brian Wilson never penned for the Beach Boys while lying in his sandbox in the midst of a narcotic miasma.
"Knife" is tantamount to a number that Roy Orbison would've cut at Sun Studios had he discovered mushrooms during the 50's. Grizzly Bear's instrumental druthers and melodies are similar to early Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd tracks containing semblances of lullaby deliverances and kooky modulations.
Another standout is "Marla," a shimmering, icy waltz that serenades with a twinkling, half buried mist of chamber piano. Droste's great aunt Marla Forbes originally wrote the song and Rossen rearranged it and let the band sink their teeth into it. "It was a great song and we all had to kind of get in there and do something to it," recalls Taylor.