Grouper – Hold/Sick 7″

Delightful...Haunting

Liz Harris is Grouper. She hails from Portland, which is way cooler than the dorks who make that show Portlandia would have you think. Liz hasn’t put anything ‘new’ out in a bit, so this little single is a welcome little winter warmer.

On the Hold/Sick 7″, Harris has certainly slowed the pace in comparison to Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. This is compounded by her stripping down, simplifying, the guitar tracks. So the tempo may not be so drastically down from that album, but the overall feel is much slower. Her overall sound is still unmistakably hers. There is a thundering artery of melancholy that  runs through all her compositions. Her breathy vocals, smeared with echoes and washes of light distortion, recall the friendliest of sirens at sea; calling wayward sailors to safe channels. And Harris’s guitar still sounds a lot like John Cale, circa The Velvet Underground, playing beneath the surface of those auspicious waters.

Both sides seem to drift downward on the gentle funnel of a whirlpool with the guitar motifs and Harris spins her dreamy, ultimately shoe-gazey vocals down into the abyss. I really dig the crackling and humming undercurrent of the A-side, “Hold”, as it leaves you just uncertain enough of the possibility that the abyss won’t soon present the worst of all nightmares. Yet it never bubbles up that far; just a distant anxiety. “Sick” definitely belies the whimsical side of Grouper’s music as it delves even deeper into a darkness that is most often heard coming out of Scandinavia (think Deaf Center and the likes). This additional hue of the horrifying is a progression in Grouper’s music that could make her a serious heavyweight in the worlds of Ambient/Drone and Neo-Classical musics.

One little suggestion I’d like to make to the folks at Room40, and it really is a small one, but if they could identify the play speed somewhere on the label or sleeve, that would be great. I know it’s easy enough for me to figure it out, but with music like this, you can almost convince yourself that either 33 1/3 or 45 is right.

Hopefully this is the sign of more to come very soon!

Score: 7/10

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