Grizzly Bear, 'Horn of Plenty + The Remixes' (Kanine)

7
Horn of Plenty + The Remixes
Critical Mass
Label: Kanine

by Douglas Wolk

Grizzly Bear's 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty, seemed to have spontaneously congealed under a decomposing log in the middle of an enchanted forest where the elves were too exhausted to dance. Distant, dreamy, blurred into a Robitussin haze, the Brooklyn group's songs were barely more than a few vague lines and some slow, chiming, delicately mysterious guitar or piano. On the rare occasions when Edward Droste's purring was intelligible, he was almost always singing about inactivity and abject romantic desperation: "I keep a service bell by my bed for you" is about as proactive as this band ever got. And beats? Well, now and then they would rouse themselves for a few thunks, taps, or scrapes, but nothing meant to inspire peeling oneself off the floor.

So it's something of a surprise to see a full-on remix disc appended to the reissue of Horn of Plenty -- not that you would necessarily shake ass to the new version, either. The mixers are mostly delegates from the freaky-electronics underground (like Dntel and the Soft Pink Truth), with a few ringers, like Grizzly Bear's smudge-pop cousin Ariel Pink. Given how spaced-out the source material is to begin with, some of the mixes simply treat the Grizzlies' mumbled harmonies and plinking tones as raw material for glitchy cut-ups and laptop interventions. The augmented versions aren't as spooky as the original Horn, but the remixes that preserve the songs as compositions or treat them as sketches for more coherent song forms actually improve them: Safety Scissors somehow manage to pour the thoroughly dazed "La Duchess Anne" into a new-wave Armani suit, and Efterklang reorchestrate "Campfire" with what sounds like a music box and a marching band. Who would have guessed the enchanted forest needed Wi-Fi access?

See also: Animal Collective, Feels (FatCat, 2005)

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