Grouper – Grid Of Points

Liz Harris takes an intimate and introspective approach on her eleventh full length album of ethereal dreampop under her Grouper moniker.

Sarah Lay reviews.

Label: Kranky
Released: 27 April 2018

Written during a retreat in Wyoming Grouper – aka Liz Harris – has built an intimate but ever-more ethereal sound on her eleventh full length album, Grid of Points. It’s her first since 2014’s acclaimed Ruins and was recorded that same year, recording abbreviated by illness with the telling sign the album is just over 20 minutes and seven songs long.

But, like other Grouper recordings, it has a timeless quality – listening feels neither like a quick twenty minutes or an eternity lost in the haze, but rather both of these at once. Indeterminable vocals over sparse piano, the hiss of the recording space somewhere beneath it all. It is remote, the heavy weight of loneliness about it but meaning is felt rather than known.

Opening track ‘The Races’ comes in at barely a minute long, choral layers of vocal forming the full melody and bringing warmth to what can often feel a cooly introspective record. Elsewhere it tentative forays, curious nudges as pieces crumble away; on ‘Birthday Song’ the undulating and distant vocal is punctuated by piano climb and fall, with even the chords feeling like sudden crashes, emotion and sound which jolts.

The album closes with ‘Breathing’, lingering notes fade to nothing fracturing in the sustain. The piano here is stronger, a resolve if not a resolution, before the track gives way to the passing hiss and throttle of a train, fading into the distance across the album’s last two minutes. Are you left in this place of isolated reflection, or do you choose to journey on? Whichever way you are taken by this album the sense remains, emotion pervading your remote parts and the ethereal beauty pale dust in your heart.

Undoubtedly tracks from this album will appear on Piano Relaxation and Study Playlists across Spotify, a background piece to some other thought, or the attempt of no thought at all. Such is the way. But those ambivalent listeners will find they are drawn forward by this spectre veiled in mist, feel the touch lingering long after the last note has rung dry.

Find Grouper on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica. A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist. Follow her @sarahlay

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