Stark and entrancing compositions
Grouper’s latest release Grid of Points is a seven-song minimalist pursuit of raw feeling. Singer and writer Liz Harris, based out of Oregon, released the project’s previous highly-praised work Ruins in 2014. Harris wrote and recorded the latest album in a week in a half during a trip to Wyoming. It was there she found herself inspired by what she could do with barest of production. She notes about the album, “Though brief, it is complete.”
Grid of Points is a collection of meditative pieces each with their own ethereal quality. Harris’ vocals are hypnotic though lyrically they may be unintelligible. Often times they sound like a morose wailing and it’s evident of the emotional release she experiences. The songs, which feel as though they were made in isolation, are reduced to their most simplistic form. With just piano, that sounds like it’s being played in the back of a long hall or cavern, and voice, she creates her winding, organic abstract art. It brings to mind darker hued paintings where smudged colors blur into indistinction. There’s not a definite line between any one thing.
Harris’ songs defy structure. In other words, there isn’t a whole lot of sunniness to the project but that’s not to say the music can’t be uplifting. At times her lilting voice meets with rising scales from the piano to a sort of emotional peak. Her breathy sing-song and mountains of self-harmonies combine to fill up the sonic space behind the tremulous piano chords. She mixes in natural sounds into the sparse tracks that give them a specific texture or a natural quality. Through these glimpses of texture, the listener is transported to the woods or some landscape she could have been pondering during her stay in Wyoming.
Harris’ ghostly voice arrives on the track “Parking Lot” along with the sound of stately piano chords, reminiscent of a hymn. Her delicately layered vocals on “Thanksgiving Song” drift in and out like the ebb and flow of the tide and each note from the ivories is sustained for maximum ambiance. The last track “Breathing” is a peaceful lullaby and with the sounds of a helicopter the album fades out into silence almost as mysteriously as it came in.