It was released on June 10, 2008, on Type Records. The album was later reissued alongside Grouper's The Man Who Died in His Boat in 2013 by Cranky.
Professional ratingsAggregate scoresSourceRating Meta critic 80/100 Review scoresSourceRating Music Drowned in Sound 9/10 Mojo Pitchfork 8.2/10 Formatters 9/10 Mike McGonagall of Pitchfork described Dragging a Deadlier Up a Hill as “druggy and sexy and arty and pretty, but never pretentious”, calling it “an arresting album of pastoral psychedelic pop “. In 2018, Pitchfork ranked it at number six on its list of the 30 best dream pop albums.
“Fishing Bird (Empty Gutted in the Evening Breeze)”3:517.” Invisible”3:558. “I'm Dragging a Deadlier Up a Hill”2:219.
“We've All Gone to Sleep”3:03Total length: 45:41 ^ “The 30 Best Dream Pop Albums”. Grouper : Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill”.
Dragging A Deadlier Up A Hill marks a departure of sorts for Liz, which sees her turn down the fuzz boxes which caged (and to some degree defined) her sound and allows her voice to ring out above everything else. Facebook | Twitter | Spotify Dragging A Deadlier Up A Hill Released On June 10, 2008Released By Type Records This Week’s Selection Chosen By David Munro It feels shameful to admit this, but it actually took me a while to catch on to Grouper, aka Liz Harris.
Back in 2013 when The Man Who Died In His Boat came out, I glanced at the album cover and thought it looked like some overly serious indie-rock band in the vein of The National, something that at that time held no interest for me. When her next album, Ruins, came out in 2014, I finally came to realize that I was actually missing out and decided to include the slightly older song Being Her Shadow from The Man Who Died in His Boat in a “new music” playlist I had.
It was so delicately beautiful, so unlike what I had assumed it would sound like for all these years, that I sat in my living room completely mesmerized for the next four minutes. I’m still not even close to getting my metaphoric and literal hands on all the various collaborations, installations, limited releases, etcetera that Harris has put out over the course of her career.
For the most part, Harris’s vocals rarely rise above a mumbled whisper, forcing you to concentrate hard just to catch a word here and there. If you listen closely, you can even hear Harris let out her breath at the end of “Heavy Water…,” a byproduct of the lo-fi recording style, but a beautiful detail nonetheless.
There was one night I smoked too much and got way too high, vibed out to Dark side’s Psychic, and then put on Grouper ’s Ruins. I fell back onto my sofa, closed my eyes, and sunk into the sounds as Harris’s whispers and piano and ambient drones wrapped themselves around me like a worn in quilt.
Between the deep, expansive reverb, the structural elasticity of songs, the similarity of the overall sound of songs, and the temptation to let Liz Harris’ singing float by without deciphering the lyrics, Dragging A Deadlier Up A Hill (A+ album name) can serve as an invitation to lose yourself. I listened to it on a Sunday morning run in Bay Head, New Jersey, sharing the side of the road with other runners, walkers, and pairs of people in flip-flops carrying to-go coffee cups.
I saw a crowd waiting outside a packed Mueller’s Bakery, and a kid across the street being taught how to catch crabs with a string and a chicken neck. All this cyclical behavior that kicks up with the warm weather and that will continue until the ocean swallows the area up, hopefully many years from now.
I spent too long this week trying to work out what Liz Harris was actually singing about on Dragging A Deadlier Up A Hill. I’ve never been the biggest fan of melodic psychedelic pop; even in those quiet, serene moments I have to myself, I prefer listening to folk or acoustic indie.
The album mostly consists of gentle piano and strummed acoustic guitar and it produces a relaxing ambient experience. Songs wash in and out like the tide of the ocean, staying just long enough that you get your feet wet, but not too much that you drown under the weight of the sound.
A comment I saw on the internet this week described it as a “45-minute lullaby,” with Harris’ voice rarely changing key as songs come and go. The “HVO Sound,” as we’ve come to know it, is ambient, muffled, melodic, sometimes morose, sometimes triumphant, always emotional.
With the cardinal song Disengaged,” Liz Harris carefully cultivates such a lovely patina of haze as sonic agitation gives way to gently driven Rhodes piano and vocals so gorgeously submerged it evokes chills. Dental’s religious imagery would serve a most amenable backdrop as melodies and accompaniments emerge into and recede from focus.
Here’s a basic reminder that it takes a careful & talented artist to create music this expansive & meticulous, even if it is somewhat “simple.” I’ve had yet another long week full of too much activity and too little sleep, but today I’m finally able to laze around at home with nothing much to do in particular.
Instead, I find myself picking up aspects of EMA, Jose Gonzalez, and early Iron & Wine from this album. Nothing here sounds like any one of those artists; indeed, it’s more like a strange crossbreed, in which the quiet, somewhat morose melodies of the latter two integrate with EMA’s bedroom tape explorations and focuses on the noises that surround her performance instead of the guitars and vocals themselves.
There are times when the huge overlay of echo and reverb that dominates most of these songs gets stripped away, as on A Cover One,” and you get to hear what amounts to a pleasant folk tune with only a minimum of post-performance effects. The other extreme is Tidal Wave,” a humming vibe of a song in which wordless vocals dominate the mix and any guitars that exist are buried to the point of significant obliteration by the echo effects they’re run through.
The happiest medium for me come to my personal album highlight, Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping,” a beautiful acoustic folk song with only partly intelligible lyrics but a truly gorgeous vocal. Dragging A Deadlier Up A Hill has been a great soundtrack to our unusually rainy summer here in Virginia, and it’s a perfect entry point into her sonic world of hazy soundscapes and haunting vocals.
Beginning with an acetylene torch/breaking waves' intro that gradually reveals a hazy acoustic guitar, it’s also the most Satie-esque, with a melodic gesture he would surely recognize. Grouper, the not DE drone of Liz Harris, never quite resolves that melody, however, increasing the impression that she’s really singing to herself.
For the rest of the album, I picture her with her back to the closet door, hair hanging over her face as she embraces her guitar like a life raft, strumming and singing as the harmonics gather around her in a protective cloud. Under the genre section on the Wikipedia page for Grouper, it lists “Ambient, Drone, Folk Experimental, Dream Pop.” That was when it became clear to me that I had been listening to the album wrong.
Letting the music wash over me, put me in a very relaxed, meditative state of mind and it became clear how beautiful it is. Press your fingers against the bridge of your nose, close your eyes, breathe slowly and let your imagination drift from the pressures encapsulating you.
Instead of deciphering lyrics or investigating backstories, I attempted to exist in the worlds that these songs inhabit. And to know there is a greater extension of material to examine from Grouper, as well as more to discover about Harris, should be a long sonic journey ahead of me and that leaves me full of excitement.
Next Week’s Selection: The Golden Band by The American Analog Set Chosen By Matt Alias Off Your Radar Newsletter Editor: Doug NunnallyContributors: James Anderson, Josh Buck, Shannon Clara, Andrew Other, Ellen “J.