Liz Harris, the mysterious Pacific Northwest resident who records as Grouper, operates entirely on her own schedule. That’s true of her music, a sort of organic DIY version of ambient, her songs obscuring both voice and instruments with reverb, muffling them until all the sounds blur together. It’s also true of her release schedule. Harris will put individual songs or EPs or collaborations out into the world whenever the spirit moves her. She hasn’t released a proper Grouper album since 2014’s stunning Ruins, but that’s about to change.
This morning, a new Bandcamp listing materialized. Next month, Grouper will release a new seven-song record called Grid Of Points. It’s hard to say whether that counts as an album or an EP, but with Grouper, things don’t always take on definable shapes or fit into square categories.
Harris has also shared a new song called “Parking Lot.” It’s a slow, moving, devastatingly pretty track. The entire song is built out of nothing but Harris’ voice and piano, and yet it’s about as far from singer-songwriter material as you can get. Instead, it’s about as languid and rapturous as prime Cocteau Twins, even it it’s also a whole lot more spare than that. Listen to it and check out the Grid Of Points tracklist below.
Of the new album, Harris says:
Grid Of Points is a set of songs for piano and voice. I wrote these songs over a week and a half; they stopped abruptly when I was interrupted by a high fever. Though brief, it is complete. The intimacy and abbreviation of this music allude to an essence that the songs lyrics speak more directly of. The space left after matter has departed, a stage after the characters have gone, the hollow of some central column, missing.
She’s also given this statement to NPR, claiming that “Parking Lot” was inspired by a scene from the 1970 experimental film Zabriskie Point:
I heard a lot about the movie Zabriskie Point from Roy Montgomery and Paul Clipson years before I finally saw it. There is a climactic scene in the California desert — writhing bodies, frenzied dancing; anxiety and pleasure confused in a massive primordial orgy of symbolic transformation. Poetic depiction of the political and social turmoil of the sixties, a return to human nature, the raw chaotic power of innocence and the desire for change.
I was struck by how presciently the film captures an essence of the desert I had felt, the sharp contrast given objects by bright light, colors popping while also in retreat. Something psychological, and polar. Compression of experience. The heat an immediate reminder of our delicate mortality. In the desert it becomes small triumph simply to make it across a hot parking lot. In the brutality of its extremes we are reduced to puppets, silhouettes cast upon a screen, thrown upon a stage. Simple acts becoming heightened and more difficult, a series of amplified gestures.
01 “The Races”
02 “Parking Lot”
04 “Thanksgiving Song”
05 “Birthday Song”