There's a fine line between alluringly obscure and willfully obtuse, and from that line Liz Harris, the woman behind Portland ambient project Grouper, resolutely didn't budge on her first two albums--2006's WAY THEIR CREPT and 2006's WIDE--which were as layered and hazy, and ultimately out of reach, as the black-and-white photos that graced their covers. That the cover art for Harris's third full-length, DRAGGING A DEAD DEER UP A HILL, depicts a girl clad in a black dress that suggests either funeral garb or a witch is telling: the presence of a face feels like progress, as does DRAGGING A DEAD DEER UP A HILL.
While Harris deftly avoids the demonstrative, a close listen reveals not only an increased sense of melody--the vocals aren't just floating here; they're moving in a beautiful direction--but structure, as in verses and choruses on some songs (it's hard to tell if "I'd Rather Be Sleeping" is dream pop or Valium pop, but it's unquestionably pop). On the gorgeous, nearly whispered "Invisible," lyrics are decipherable; if this doesn't constitute a step out of the light, it feels like a move out of the shadows, which Harris's talent deserves.
Mojo (Publisher) (p.102) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Given Harris' beguiling vocals, parallels could be drawn with the mid-80s 4AD sound of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can DAnce and the Eno-goes-shoegazing sound of Slowdive's SOUVLAKI."