Grizzly Bear man’s debut solo album delivers architecturally grand music, both opulent and labyrinthine, registering as a genuinely transporting, multi-dimensional song cycle
Daniel Rossen has maintained more of a low key presence over recent years. Grizzly Bear, the band he made his name with, last released an album back in 2017 and have effectively been on hiatus since. In the intervening years the only new music we’ve heard from Rossen was Deerslayer, a single he released in 2018 for Record Store Day. But that’s all about to change with the appearance of his debut solo album, You Belong There.
During this time away, Rossen relocated to Sante Fe, New Mexico and began experimenting with different instruments to those he usually played with Grizzly Bear. He bought an upright bass and started to reacquaint himself with it, having last played it during childhood. A cello and woodwind instruments soon followed, as he taught himself the basics in preparation for his re-entry into the world of music.
Dynamic shifts and experimentation with structure were a regular feature of the music of Grizzly Bear so it’s not a surprise to also find them on You Belong There, but here they sound refreshed, and more vivid and pronounced than before. They’re qualities showcased on opening duo It’s A Passage and Shadow In The Frame, a looseness and fluidity running through Rossen’s guitar playing, particularly on the former. A staircasing intricacy meanwhile defines much of the latter and together they show how he’s still an artist not interested in accepting the ordinary, preferring to carve out his own, less familiar musical paths.
The title track is one of several songs to feature the rolling, rippling percussive embellishments of Grizzly Bear drummer Chris Bear. They add rich, textural detailing not dissimilar to that which Jim White provides on Dirty Three records. It’s followed by Unpeopled Space, one of the album’s undoubted stand-out moments which cleverly guides the listener through doors and down chutes in search of musical reward. It’s a journey that prompts further comparisons to Van Dyke Parks (with whom Rossen has had previous associations, having played with him at the Barbican back in 2012).
As the album progresses it becomes clear this is architecturally grand music, opulent and labyrinthine, all spacious aural courtyards and impressively constructed sonic monuments. It’s certainly evident on I’ll Wait For Your Visit which arrives with wiry, angular lines and dense meshing of textures. It’s one of many dream-like flows on the album, one of several presentations of alternative musical realities.
Keeper And Kin sees him reach even further, all undulating panoramas and shimmering light, very much the album’s emotional centre point. Another strength of the album is how Rossen makes every track count, whether it be in the softly psychedelic guitar uncoilings of Celia or how an alluring, almost imperceptible instability slowly settles over Tangle. Each song has its own identity yet also seamlessly fits into the bigger picture and the overall standard never dips. You Belong There is a genuinely transporting, multi-dimensional song cycle and a glimpse into a fascinating musical mind that demands repeated plays. It’s destined to appear on album of the year lists but its depth and sense of ambition will ensure its treasures last well beyond 2022.