Grouper - Why She Is The Queen of the Night

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I'll admit that I arrived late to the Grouper party. Liz Harris's Portland-based solo project has been going since 2006, developing from a drone-heaby basement act into what has become essential listening. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill was the album that finally made me appreciate Grouper's magnificent sound. It offers a way into her dense, nocturnal world.

Her inspiration comes from nature, but also the way sleep can offer respite from the harsher realities of life. With a somnambulist mood forming the basis of her work, it's surprising to find her songs are so intimate. Yet listen to Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be and you'll see how she explores these qualities by using noise, distortion and drone to create strength in her quiet songs.


The same friend who introduced me to Grouperl went to see her live in London a few weeks ago. Harris apparently played for just 10 minutes, but instead of everyone being angry, they were left dazzled. That's cool. As Grouper, Harris has built up a huge blog buzz, which could have easily translated into a record deal, but she doesn't seem keen on entering a failing industry. In a recent interview she explained how her time in the "Group" commune (which informed the name Grouper) has affected her stance on the industry: "The values the Group held went directly against most elements of the modern music industry, most of modern culture. Need for attention, lack of care for others, strutting like a peacock, motivated by money. It's like a cheap magic show."

With Grouper you are receiving transmissions of pure art – her music is not motivated by money and she's not part of some frantic race to success in the music industry. I'm hyped to hear that the forthcoming Vessels EP is due in January. Harris's new recordings, posted on Vimeo and MySpace, demonstrate a restless artist willing to push herself further into new sonic territories. Just check the Maya Deren-like, nightmarish dance of death video for Hold the Way ( embedded above).

The video matches the music in an ingenious way. It doesn't "feel" like a promo vid, more another artistic artefact from Grouper's world. Gone are the acoustic vibes of her current album, instead her vocals evoke choral harmonies over heavy transcendental Popul Vuh-esque noise. This spooky nighttime anthem shows that Grouper's restless artistic spirit shows no sign of diminishing just yet.

© Words – Alan McGee (Original article appeared in The Guardian – Used by Kind permission)
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Read 2547 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:36
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