Liz Harris is fast becoming one of my favourite musicians. I fell in love with her work as Grouper after buying her record ‘Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill’. It’s hard to describe such a beautiful record. In fact, I find it hard to describe Grouper’s music other than to say when you listen to her it’s like living in a giant under water bubble. I imagine that in days gone by, when sailors were called to their deaths by the sirens it sounded pretty similar to the way Grouper does. Beautiful, ethereal and calming. That’s the impact her work has on me.
To follow up ‘Dragging a Dead Deer…’ with two records as stunning as ‘Alien Observer’ and ‘Dream Loss’ was no mean feat. In fact, in Alien Observer she almost surpassed the brilliance of the previous record. She certainly developed and grew as a musician and built on the previous work. Mirroring, her collaboration with Tiny Vipers, for me, suffers for the fact that there is not enough Grouper for my liking! That’s not to say I don’t like Tiny Vipers on her own – I do. Just that the album is a bit of a mix of both rather than a coming together of the two and it’s not as successful as people make out. In fact, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
Anyways, new album ‘The Man Who Died in His Boat’ is not really new material. In conjunction with Kranky re-releasing the brilliant ‘Dragging a Dead Deer…’ they have decided to release this record too, which is basically a whole load of un-released material from sessions around the time of the other record. So, what to expect then? Well, more sublime watery gorgeousness is the answer. Most of this stuff ties in perfectly with Dead Deer era tracks and displays Harris’ ability as both a song writer and producer.
Lost in a sea of reverb, tracks drift and float haunting the listener as Harris’ stunning vocals pierce the heart of the album, somehow finding a way through the murky guitar laden waters to our ears, calling us to her watery under world. Listening to a Grouper record is not about listening to 12 individual tracks; it’s about going on a musical journey, taking a leap and seeing it through. Jumping in to your boat and setting sail across the sea that is dark and deep and rich and full of beauty. It’s a journey that you end up wanting to experience again and again. An addiction.
This record offers nothing new for Grouper fans in terms of sound/direction but as a collection of tunes works perfectly, yet again. I’m not one for over hyping an artist but I truly believe that Liz Harris is one special musician creating challenging, interesting, fresh and meaningful music
forcing the listener to experience the whole rather than the individual pieces. The true worth of Grouper is in the album and in this world where people claim the album is a dying art form Grouper stands up to this assertion and throws it firmly back at those doubters. The album as an art form is alive and well.
When the record is over. Pick up ‘Dead Deer’ or ‘Alien Observer’ and continue on your journey with Grouper. Or simply hit the play button again and again. You will never tire of this artist. I know I won’t.