Grouper – Ruins


A few years ago I went to Glasgow to see Rafael Anton Irissari, Lawrence English and Grouper. Having watched Rafael Anton Irissari I didn’t feel the desire to stand through the pulsing throb of Lawrence English. Both Ali and I were tired, Fraser had fucked off for personal reasons after Irissari and Lawrence English had made me feel uneasy – hard to explain.  So we went home.   It is still one of my biggest regrets, not staying to see Grouper. Funnily enough, when I ran Trampoline, I had a conversation with another promoter about jointly putting on Grouper. That fell through though due to fears of other shows costing us a fortune. As such, I am still to see Liz Harris live. I need to rectify this fact.

‘Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill’ is one of my favourite records. I have liked everything she has done but that record remains the stand out dense with her under water vocals shimmering amongst the ethereal soundscapes. Siren songs for drunk sailors.

‘Ruins’ then feels raw.  This is Harris at her most stripped back.  It’s a skeletal structure of a Grouper record and it is all the more intensely beautiful for it.  It seems like on this occasion Harris has chosen to expose herself from behind the effects using simply piano and voice to deliver a master class in simplistic beauty.  The dreamlike vocals remain but are not immersed in the underwater love treatment.  Up front and centre and just incredible.  The delivery is still muffled, almost mumbled, but the treatment is less dense with the vocals forming a centre piece rather than being swallowed up as part of the overall soundscape.  And yet, Harris still manages to make the vocal about more than words.  As always, it’s a mesmerising instrument designed not simply to share thoughts but to transmit emotion.  And connecting emotionally is something that Grouper has always managed to do, with me anyways.  This record is beautiful.  That’s the word that keeps jumping at me.  Beautiful.  And it feels effortlessly so.  I don’t mean to sound flippant, as if to say she wasn’t trying when she made this record.  On the contrary, it feels like she just sat down at the piano and this record poured out from within.   It really is an incredible piece of music that I want to listen to over and over and over again. Hopefully I will get to see her perform this one live.  Not something I intend to miss out on again.

‘Ruins’ will be released on the ever awesome Kranky on 31 October and I highly recommend that you enhance your life by buying it.  On vinyl too I think.  This will sound perfect late at night, on a record player and with a bottle of red wine to hand.  If you don’t believe me, check out the stunning ‘Holding’ below.