Liz Harris, aka Grouper, has always managed to paint the bleakest landscapes with music. Her newest album, The Man Who Died in his Boat, continues the tradition, delivering the musical equivalent of a J.W.M. Turner : slightly blurry, awe inspiring and reminiscent of the treacherous sea.
The Man Who Died in his Boat isn’t exactly your normal dream pop album. It takes the shoegaze approach of making the vocals another stringed instrument, dispersed into the misty morning, but without the heavy distortion. This is more like a lucid dream where you are in control of the otherwordly happenings around you.
3 songs in and ‘Cloud in places’ finds you in a magical place, like a calm rain during the magic hour. It’s no longer day, but night hasn’t still fallen. You might see one or two stars starting to smile and the every day problems are starting to flock away into the backburner of your mind.
Although it is quite dreamy, there are bits when it borders into becoming an eerie, unsettling nightmare. ‘Being her shadow’ is soothing, but you can’t feel that sense of foreboding that things are not right. The extreme reverb and infinite repeat in ‘Difference (voices)’ is a joy, but, again, it feels like it’s a harbinger of doom. A rather pleasant sounding doom, though. A piece like ‘STS’ does feel like hopelessness and abandonment.
But it’s not all gloom here. ‘The man who died in his boat’ might sound like it’s promising a dirge, but it is brighter than expected; a first ray of sunshine after a long night. ‘Cover the long way’, my fave track in The Man Who Died in his Boat is the soundtrack to a 4 minute hug. It’s endearing and relaxing, slightly mesmerising you with the lovely vocals and hummings of Liz Harris.
It’s strange. Even if you can’t make out the lyrics that well, Grouper manages to convey all feelings so well. Longing, desperation, sadness, heck, even hope. Lo Fi might be a gimmick for many a band, but for Grouper it’s not only a way of life, but a well-developed style.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López