Grouper - Ruins (Artist Edition) LP+CD
Label: Yellow Electric
Piano and voice. That's what we encounter in the latest incantation from Liz Harris, once again recording as Grouper. Chillingly beautiful smears from dankly shoegazing guitars, loop-station electronics, mumbled vocals, and a near constant wash of stoned introspection were the common elements of those albums of hers that captured our imagination like Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill and AIA: Dream Loss. She's eschewed pretty much all of the gauzy blur and the narcotic diffusion that runs through all of her previous albums; but the delicacy of these songs on Ruins and beguiling poetry of sadness makes this very much another fantastic Grouper album.
Harris wrote all of the material for Ruins during a residency in Portugal back in 2011. There, she made full use of an upright piano, recording these songs onto a four-track with occasional overdubs, just for an additional layer voice here and there in order to harmonize with herself. Without all of the fuzz and drone, Harris' lyrics enjoy a bit more clarity, though she has long been one to slur the syllables into a cooing gasp of pitch-perfect intoxication. Her songs arpeggiate on simple piano chords evolving the minor key repetition into secretive, plaintive lullabies, slowly tapped out to match the torpor of her voice. The album is starkly naked in the emotional fragility of these arrangements, but Harris is very much in control of the poetics calmly painting her songs in a sonic palette of rainy-day blues and greys. It's much closer to the under appreciated Mirroring collaboration that hopefully wasn't just a one-off with Tiny Vipers' Jesy Fortino. Yes, another gem from the wintery soul of Liz Harris.
This version is the second pressing for Liz's self-released art edition, which comes housed in a handsome black on white silkscreened cover (opposite of the color scheme of the first pressing), but it still includes the bonus CD of a thunderstorm field recordings.