Reviewing Grouper’s The Man Who Died In His Boat is the ambient maestro Kyle Bobby Dunn.
Just another of those boiling hot summers one day, he began to play a lovely lo-fi sounding number called “It Feels Alright” and it couldn’t feel more right at that moment. He mentioned the name Grouper and said he’d been listening to her a lot. I lit up and immediately went to hunt her down and found this gorgeous recording, “Cover the windows and the walls.”
I walked around with it for the following week or two and became obsessed. Her perfect use of quiet had near infinite power and her voice made one recall their dreams easier than their memories. It was music I wanted to be controlled by and ‘felt alright’ in it’s often melancholy mood.
About a year later I was extremely excited to hear of her new full length, “Dragging a dead deer up a hill.” It came around another hot summer where life was really getting me down and I felt I was dragging my dead self up a hill for no reason.
I spent a lot of time with it wandering lonely streets and neighbourhoods of Manhattan or Brooklyn and train rides to odd places. Her music has the ability to make one feel a complete dissolve but also brings feelings from the past up quite intensely.
Often all at once.
I still listen to ‘Traveling Through a Sea’ from this album very regularly. It’s one of those life affirming songs where the chaotic rush and thrust of the world can make sense for a few minutes. Her music often reminds me of love and the inability to properly express it in our lifetime.
With the release of ‘A I A’ in 2011, I was pretty certain she was my favourite artist of today. Just contanst repeat listenings and in a strange way becoming good friends with each song. Each had its own distinct mood and lovability.
It’s hard to pick a favourite from the two albums contained, but I think ‘Dream Loss’ has the most hits. Songs like ‘Soul Eraser’ and ‘No Other’ are practically anthems for my daily life. It’s amazing how she turns this sense of loneliness and sadness into highly listenable pop songs. All the feelings of pain are there but they exist in an almost catchy way. Incredible.
Last year’s “Violet Replacement” just floored me as well. Probably my favourite recorded output of the year and very different from what we’ve heard from her before. On these two long from tracks she perfectly captures emotional resonance.
The long lasting kind that can transform a person dramatically and physically. “Sleep” is the more powerful of the two and longer. A fine use of field recordings and voice that merge with looped guitar and some kind of low end hum. Just gorgeous through and through and again highly relistenable.
So with this new set of older material taken from the ‘Dead deer’ days, I’ve been very nostalgic and full of longing lately and it couldn’t have come at a better time, the middle of winter, February – I was born on this miserable month. I’ve never been in love as real and hard as I am today and a sort of reverting or resolve even seems highly improbable and even unwanted. I’m talking about someone other than Grouper, but she has put her own love spell on me as well.
These songs are all beautifully placed and traced from life with such delicacy and honesty, it’s hard to believe there will be something more from her this year or next that could contain a similar energy or power. The song “Towers” gives an almost perfect definition of hope and what it really stands for.
With each listen I am carried to a new level of understanding, or of trying to understand myself. I am clouded by my own thoughts and desires but we all are and thats what makes up a certain character in each of us. We are all made up of very confusing feelings but Liz Harris’ music offers a clear look into why that is.
This is definitely the music of our time.
Reflected in these songs is an honest loneliness and sincerity that so much music tries to escape and refuse. Sometimes it really is the only music I ever want to listen to.
– Kyle Bobby Dunn.
“When I was a teenager the wreckage of a sailboat washed up on the shore of Agate Beach. The remains of the vessel weren’t removed for several days. I walked down with my father to peer inside the boat cabin. Maps, coffee cups and clothing were strewn around inside.
I remember looking only briefly, wilted by the feeling that I was violating some remnant of this man’s presence by witnessing the evidence of its failure. Later I read a story about him in the paper. It was impossible to know what had happened. The boat had never crashed or capsized. He had simply slipped off somehow, and the boat, like a riderless horse, eventually came back home.
The Man Who Died in His Boat is an album of unreleased songs recorded alongside the Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill album.” – Liz Harris (Grouper) on The Man Who Died In His Boat.