Spectral folk and electronic ambience from the Oregon coastline.
Grouper, real name Liz Harris, plays things pretty close to the vest. At her first show, she performed from the green room, and a similar spirit of obfuscation informs her records. Landmark early efforts like Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill and the self-released A I A series submerged timeless pop songs in a pool of shimmering ambience. 2014's Ruins and Grid Of Points, which is released next week on Kranky, were written and recorded quickly while at residencies (in Portugal and Wyoming respectively), in small rooms on pianos and four-tracks. Still the ghost lingers. Harris describes the new record as exploring "the space left after matter has departed, a stage after the characters have gone, the hollow of some central column, missing."
Harris lives a quiet life on the coast in Astoria, Oregon. She employs friends to help make her handmade, limited-edition records. Fittingly, her mix, which she relates to a double-sided postcard, draws heavily on music from her immediate community, featuring tracks from close friends and collaborators like Roy Montgomery, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Valet. The whole thing is bathed in a church-like ambience, full of sacred chorale music and Terry Riley-esque organ figures. It also contains the subtle gestures and symbols that make Grouper's music feel like a secret message from a friend.
What have you been up to recently?
Rehearsing and preparing for shows in the EU, grieving, going for walks, anticipating sailboat racing season, spending time with my dog, converting my lawn into moss and fern-scape, painting.
How and where was the mix recorded?
At home. Vinyl onto a Zoom recorder, into Ableton, edited there with digital tracks.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Double-sided postcard. Sent one once and was reminded; written back to me upon receiving it, they were potent words. Paradox reference. Mix as a post card, memory as object, material. Post-card. Mourning, a connection to the living. Connection to friends.
You compare the eight pieces comprising Grid Of Points to "small texts hanging in space." Both Ruins and the new record are made up of spare piano songs. How do you know when a song, or album, is complete?
I'm following directions. I look and listen.
You live on the coast in Oregon, Ruins was recorded in Aljezur, Portugal, Grid Of Points in Wyoming. What effect does place, or space, have on your music?
Expressions of being met with land (sky, sea), all built in. Brimming over/cusping, looking out on to the world. See an answer in a wave or as the birds pass, in the shape of trees bent over by the wind, a water-texture. Answers to the side, above all—looking.