GRIZZLY BEAR: Friend EP (Warp Records)


Posted on Dec 5th 2007 01:35 am

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Grizzly Bear: Friend

Friend EP
Warp Records 2007
10 Tracks. 43mins18mins
Format: CDS, 12″ and Digital

Originally the solo project of Daniel Rosen, whose lo-fi debut album, Horn Of Plenty, was recorded in his bedroom and released on Rumraket in 2005, Grizzly Bear are now a fully fledged formation counting four permanent members. Following its release, Horn Of Plenty got the remix treatment from a wide range of artists, including Efterklang, Dntel, Solex, Ariel Pink and Alpha to name but a few. Friend EP comes over a year after Grizzly Bear’s stellar second album, Yellow House (Warp Records), and collects alternative versions, demos, new songs and covers by Band Of Horses, Alias Sound and CSS.

The first impression filtering out of this record is the somewhat rawer and heavier nature of the music. While Horn Of Plenty appeared fragile and almost amateurish, and Yellow House was carried by beautifully light and airy melodies and arrangements, Friend at times reveals a moodier Bear, more prone to dig its sharp claws in. Alligator, which opens, is a perfect example. The original was a short interlude on Rosen’s debut album, but here, it becomes tensed with electric guitars, while a choir harmonise over the main melody. The delicate volutes of Little Brother are electrified in a similar way. Stripped off of its bucolic attire, it is here dark and frowns upon any intention to light up the atmosphere with soft vocal harmonies.

He Hit Me, originally a minor hit for The Crystals in 1962, becomes in the hands of Rosen and Co. reminiscent of early Scott Walker tainted with contemporary folk flavours. Later, Granny Diner, a track included as a bonus on the Japanese version of the album, begins as a sparse piece, where gentle acoustic brushes are thrown in slowly, hung on capsules of frozen time until a slow rhythm and the outline of a melody start to form. Although the highs of Yellow House are only distant memories, this is perhaps the closest to the sumptuous swathes of the album the band come to. Plans gets completely reshuffled by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and becomes a concentrate of noises which goes for what sounds vaguely like the hustle and bustle of an Middle Eastern market to radio interferences and other distortions, while, later, in the hands of Band Of Horses, the piece is quite successfully given the bluegrass anthem treatment, complete with banjo, piano and vocal harmonies.

Brazilian party monsters CSS submit Knife to an electro-shock treatment which gives it a haunting dimension, while Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, here under his Atlas Sound guise, uses the palette of acoustic sounds at his disposal to build a hypnotic piece. The EP concludes with a home recorded version of Deep Blue Sea, sending Grizzly Bear back where it all started.

Friend is a rather uneven record, which doesn’t seem to go in any particular direction and doesn’t, therefore, serve any clear purpose. It is as if the band were trying to show too many facets of their work at once and consequently ended up losing focus. Still, there are some interesting moments scattered here, often found in the most unexpected corners, which will surely satisfy fans of the band until a more consistent piece of work is delivered.


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