Portland's Liz Harris AKA Grouper is one of only a few artists who consistently melts our collective hearts. Her 'Grid Of Points' album (like her previous record on Kranky, 'Ruins') is more stripped-back than her earlier work, with a greater emphasis on songwriting and delicate piano compositions. What was previously submerged in effects resonates with a newfound clarity; what was previously obscured is foregrounded, offering a clearer window into the heart and mind of the artist and revealing previously unheard details within her meticulously crafted, gorgeous compositions. And yet, there's still enough mystique surrounding her songs and fragile, ghostly, ambient soundscapes to make her work as intriguing as ever.
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Grouper -- or ‘Ghostly’ Liz Harris, as I sometimes call her (although this sentence is the first time I’ve done that, in writing anyway) -- is back with another exceedingly beautiful record. On Grid Of Points, Portland Liz follows up one of my favourite albums of 2014, ‘Ruins’; a record that was born of a deconstruction of her sound -- free of the cloudy, blurry, partial obfuscations characteristic of her previous work -- to let the simple, yet still otherworldly gorgeousness and extra-beguiling clarity of her compositions shine through. Harris is doing that still, and never has she sounded more lovely. And, never has she sounded more seductive.
The entirety of side A of ‘Grid’ consists of truly haunting melodies delivered by her cooly cooing voice accompanied by nothing other than her happily steadfast, bolsteringly woebegone ol’ joanna. Opening with the self-harmonizing, a capella ‘The Races’, it’s a paradoxically rich, luscious sound full of chapel-like reverb designed to awaken our senses and prepare us for the full intensity of the rest of the record. And how Harris’s voice and piano chime together as if they were fully wedded and inseparable. And how happy am I to turn the record over and drop the needle once more..
Side B greets us with the ethereal ‘Birthday Song’: “This emotional disturbance began the other night…” -- piano keys and minor chords fluttering in counterpoint to Harris’s voice, which gathers attention-demanding momentum with every breath. But there are plenty more emotional disturbances still to be delivered on this record, right up until Liz has delivered her last breath on side B and transformed herself into a chugging steam train (‘Breathing’ / ‘Coal Train’); the final protracted notes evaporating unto the skies. This is a record to pore over; to absorb, to potentially obsess over. But hey, you’ve worked hard. This is a record you deserve in your life -- lap it up, please do.
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