Listen to Grizzly Bear on Rhapsody...
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.
When it comes to their bands its like even if its not the thing that I want to listen to, I know that it's still good quality. We all appreciated that because the label seems to have good taste when picking out quality music as well as music that will have a longer life.
-Chris Bear on being picked up by Warp Records
It's rather quaint and welcoming how an American band has cut an album that could be The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society if the Brit-rockers had lived in an isolated commune with LSD spiked water. "Central and Remote" radiantly combines airy harmonies with Eastern droning while tracks like "Little Brother" show Grizzly Bear's ability to zig instrumentally with retro cinematic film score infusions and zag melodiously, fitting the two perfectly like puzzle pieces. Grizzly Bear shows how a band's sound can be vivid and colorful without overdoing it.
Grizzly Bear by Christie Harrison
Taylor doesn't see it so much as evolution or rebirth but instead credits the new album's dynamic to the merging of individual member's musical pallets and instrumental guile, as well as sharing the songwriting duties.
"Yellow House is an album with all four of us working together so there is a lot more people's musical backgrounds coming into it and everybody is a multi-instrumentalist to some degree. Where the first album was written by one person - and it sounds like it - we originally worried that this album wouldn't be cohesive enough because things were coming from so many different places compositionally," Taylor comments. "Also, when we listened to how the songs sounded we asked ourselves what kind of record were we making and we really didn't know. So, it was sort of stressful".
While in the midst of recording in a house in Boston where Droste grew up, Bear recalls how the band had no label to call home midway through the process until Warp, a label respected by the band, came along following the discovery of some rudimentary demos. "During the time when we were taking a break from recording [Yellow House] we sent out demos of six songs that were relatively put together but not all finished and [Warp] just found it somehow. We didn't even contact them. When it comes to their bands its like even if its not the thing that I want to listen to, I know that it's still good quality. We all appreciated that because the label seems to have good taste when picking out quality music as well as music that will have a longer life."
After being hand picked by TV On The Radio for the opening slot on their Fall tour and another high profile opening gig with Feist coming up, life, in terms of critical and fan reception, is good for Grizzly Bear. Just don't ask them to sum up what kind of music they play. Holding back laughter, Bear retorts, "That's one of the hardest questions that you could ever ask and I still think that I don't have an answer."
GRIZZLY BEAR TOUR DATES
06.08 | Northampton, MA Calvin Theater (Supporting FEIST)
06.09 | Boston, MA Berklee Performance Center (Supporting FEIST)
06.13 | Washington D.C., DC 9:30 Club (Supporting FEIST)
06.14 | Greensboro, NC Carolina Theater (Supporting FEIST)
06.15 | Atlanta, GA Variety Playhouse (Supporting FEIST)
06.20 | Minneapolis, MN Pantages Theater (Supporting FEIST)
06.22 | Boulder, CO Boulder Theater (Supporting FEIST)
06.24 | Seattle, WA Moore Theater (Supporting FEIST)
06.25 | Portland, OR TBA (Supporting FEIST)
06.27 | San Francisco, CA The Fillmore (Supporting FEIST)
06.29 | Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern (Supporting FEIST)
06.30 | Solana Beach, CA Belly Up (Supporting FEIST)
07.07 | Roskilde, Denmark Roskilde Festival
07.14 | Chicago, IL Pitchfork Music Festival
07.16 | New York City, NY Summerstage (supporting The Decemberists)
JamBase | Worldwide
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