Do No Harm (Keeled Scales)
Reviewed by Rachel Rascoe, Fri., Nov. 22, 2019
"I fell into a spiral, a swoon, drawn by the moon," sings Grace Rowland halfway through her fourth album as the Deer. The line pinpoints a headspace developed over years by the haunting Austin folk group, brought down to earth considerably on this country-swirled indie rock debut for local imprint Keeled Scales. Toughened by a darker shade of Rowland's guiding tone, Do No Harm pulses downtempo wonders including "Move to Girls" and "Dissolve" that will court fans of Big Thief's lulling guitar dynamics. Ten tracks build like a sure-footed march toward a destination beyond conflict as hinted at in the title's borrowed promise from the Hippocratic oath. The swooping melodies of "Stark Raven" urge: Sign your name and do no harm. Likewise, "Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt" tributes Kurt Vonnegut's anti-war standard Slaughterhouse-Five. In a spacier second half, the image of peace blurs in dreamy string and piano weavings. All ends on a reinvention of "Walking in Space" off 1967 rock musical Hair, a decidedly pacifist tale of hippies resisting the Vietnam War draft. The starry-eyed, six-minute journey, which folds swiftly to a close, matches an album grasping broadly for a harmonious mindset rather than a worldly locale.