Horn of Plenty
here’s always been a certain romanticism surrounding bedroom 4-track albums. What with the solipsism, the personal and creative exploration, the countless masturbatory hours spent perfecting a tiny masterpiece, it’s hard not to look upon such projects as somehow more pure than the cocaine decisions of big studio recordings. The bedroom is the realm of dreams and aspirations, the inner sanctum where anything can be created with some imagination, like the forts and pirate ships of our youth.
So when you hear Grizzly Bear’s Horn of Plenty you aren’t quite listening to the tape hiss of a Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment as much as the murky, sylvan sounds of the forest and the animals that reside there. Horn of Plenty began as a private obsession, a pet project that Edward Droste would play for friends, a bare-bones album about finding relationships and losing them. However, once he asked Christopher Bear to join the group the album took on a life of its own, melding sparse guitar and found sounds with impressionistic drumming.
“Deep Sea Diver”, the anthemic opening track, begins with atmospheric field recordings but slowly builds toward power-chorded bliss. Droste’s disembodied vocals, caught somewhere between white noise and muffled apathy, rarely betrays rage or deep emotion even as the music crescendos around him. The album is not so much self-consciously lo-fi as it is purposefully murky and, as such, contradictions abound—the jagged edges give way to crisp arrangements and lengthy instrumental sections. On “Disappearing Act”, tense lyrics and spastic drumming akin to Animal Collective on a funeral march seamlessly bleed into a mellow country locked groove. “Alligator”, which could easily be a Madcap Laughs outtake, displays a youthful melancholic joy through the Omnichord drone.
In concert Grizzly Bear have recently been experimenting with loose harmonies and more pronounced group interplay with the addition of Chris Taylor (who was not yet a member when the album was created). “Service Bell” shows these new chops and then some as Droste and Bear point and counterpoint over plinky guitar.
Horn of Plenty is the rare Brooklyn album that rises above its Brooklyn hype perhaps because its inspiration can be found in the wooded areas of New England, and not the converted loft spaces of Bushwick. Or maybe it’s the adventurous and playful nature of the recording that grabs the listener. Either way, Grizzly’s music matches adult heartache with a childhood whimsy that makes the album more than auspicious. That kid who never leaves his bedroom has finally made something of himself.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Forgang
Reviewed on: 2004-12-17