Liz Harris’ work as Grouper has grown more and more majestic over the years, sometimes closer to traditional folk, sometimes relishing the layers and layers of blissful, reverb-drenched drones.
2005’s Way Their Crept was full of beautiful, sky-scraping moments, Harris’ angelic voice counterpoint to throbbing acoustic guitar. 2006’s Wide continued this sound, but moments of structure would appear and ground the album peacefully. Last year’s Top Ten-worthy Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill had plenty of transcendental harmonies and blissed-out ambience, but the high points were the honest-to-god songs dropped in the middle of it. “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping” ranks highly in the best songs of 2008. The quick follow-up split LP with Inca Ore (sometime member of Jackie-O Motherfucker Eva Saelens) and Lemon Bear Orchestra showcased Harris’ voice more than her melodic sense or her songwriting ability.
But the recently released Grouper/City Center split 7″ (unfortunately limited to only 500 copies) shows that Harris is ready to keep pushing her songwriting boundaries. Having not heard Grouper on vinyl before, the 7″ is a revelation. The bubbling sturm und drang of Harris’ last album sounds richer, fuller, heavier than it ever could on CD or digitally. “False Horizon” is a revelation; crackling vinyl full of watery guitar, serene vocals. City Center‘s contribution is nearly as strong. “This is How We See in the Dark” is a loopy, dark Animal Collective-esque track full of reversed audio, heavily reverbed vocals and jangling bells.
If you’re lucky enough to find a copy at your local record shop, this 7″ is worth the small amount of cash it’ll take to pick it up. If not, search out “Dragging a Dead Deer” if you haven’t already.