I came across Grizzly Bear via Dan Rossen's brilliant - but wholly different - earlier project Department of Eagles. I was initially underwhelmed and bemused, but I persevered and can back previous reviewers who have labelled this a grower. If like me you have come to Grizzly Bear via Department of Eagles, you will want to know what, if anything, it has in common with that project. Not a great deal in fact - this shares more with the deconstructed Beach Boys harmonies and acid-spiked folk of Animal Collective, for example, or a less-prosaic version of Tunng's haunted Wicker Man folktronica. Throw in the wierd, rustic Americana of Midlake, Matt Elliot's Gallic ghostliness, the multi-instrumental dynamism and song-within-song structures of Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips, with a pinch of Bernard Herrmann and you might get something close. Whereas the Animal Collective reconstruct the spirit of the Beach Boys through the giddy, sometimes nauseating hyperactivity of childhood, Grizzly Bear's interpretation is spectral and autumnal, relocated from sunny California to the bleak New York woodlands.
Woodwinds, banjo, acoustic guitar, jazzy percussion and piano combine with a subtle use of electronics to create a sound that is at once creakily lo-fi and, when they want, vast and orchestral. Something in the assemlance of sounds suggests a commonality with other artists on the Warp roster, belied by the roaming formlessness of the songs. Melodic refrains segue in and out of cavernous musical interludes, many clocking up to six minutes. There are times when it slips out of focus and starts to drift into cultish incidental music, but the album is best taken as a whole, with a carefully-refined and singular atmosphere. One for winter days.
Like this? Try any of the aforementioned artists, especially Animal Collective's 'Song Tungs' or even Iron and Wine's 'Shepherd's Dog'.