Grouper – Shade (2021) [FLAC 24bit/48kHz]

Grouper – Shade (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/48kHz | Time – 00:34:59 minutes | 332 MB | Genre: Ambient, Folk, Singer-Songwriter, Female Vocal
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © kranky

The 12th full-length by Pacific Northwest artist Liz Harris aka Grouper is a collection of songs spanning 15 years. She characterizes Shade as an album about respite, and the coast, poetically and literally. How we frame ourselves in a landscape, how in turn it frames ourselves; memories and experiences carried forward mapping our connection to place.

Songs touch on loss, flaws, hiding places, love. Deep connections to the Bay Area, and the North Coast, with its unique moods of solitude, beauty, and isolation—a place described and transformed by the chaos and power of river-mouth, wild maritime storms, columns of mist that rise up unexpectedly on the road at night. Portions were recorded on Mount Tamalpais during a self-made residency years back, other pieces made longer ago in Portland, while the rest were tracked during more recent sessions in Astoria. Throughout, Harris threads a hidden radiant language of voice, disquiet, and guitar, framed by open space and the sense of being far away.

Liz Harris’ music as Grouper is always beautiful, but Shade is perhaps the first of her albums that reflects most, if not all, of the different ways in which it’s beautiful. At once old and new, the record gathers 15 years’ worth of previously unreleased music that Harris recorded in Portland and Astoria, Oregon, and at a residency at Mount Tamalpais, California. Juxtaposing pieces from such an extended period of time allows the nuances — or shades — of Harris’ approach to coexist brilliantly. The buffeting lo-fi atmospheres and comforting hiss of “Followed the Ocean” give the impression of tuning into an extra-staticky broadcast of a long-forgotten song, or hearing a snippet of it in a windstorm, but the crystalline whispers and acoustic guitar of “Unclean Mind” are just as mysteriously moving. There’s always been a tangibility to Grouper’s music, thanks to Harris’ exquisite use of textures, many of which come from the locations where she records. On Shade, her pieces feel like natural extensions of their environment, whatever that environment may be. The hum of the room and the squeak of the guitar strings become vital elements of “Promise,” a love song so intimate it feels like it should only be heard by the person Harris wrote it about; a hooting owl punctuates the gorgeous finale “Kelso Blue Sky,” a more traditionally structured song that nevertheless remains true to her vision of ambient music. The vérité feel of “The Way Her Hair Falls” as Harris stops and starts over captures the honesty of her performance as well as the paths the song’s shadowy melody takes. Similarly, even when she creates cavernous spaces, an element of closeness remains, as on “Basement Mix,” a humbly named but mesmerizing collage of echo-laden guitar arpeggios and vocal harmonies. With its balance of eras, sounds, and short and extended songs, Shade has the depth of a career retrospective and the freshness of a new album, both of which make it especially appealing to new and longtime Grouper fans alike. – Heather Phares

1. Followed the ocean (02:54)
2. Unclean mind (03:51)
3. Ode to the blue (02:53)
4. Pale Interior (03:51)
5. Disordered Minds (04:34)
6. The way her hair falls (02:35)
7. Promise (02:49)
8. Basement Mix (05:17)
9. Kelso (Blue sky) (06:15)