"Liz Harris once again proves to be an artist who is capable of encapsulating the subtle gradients and gentle movements of the soul, which usually get drowned in the chatter of everyday life"
The world seems to be in a strange place right now. We are at a crossroads, eagerly awaiting a long lost future, while simultaneously being haunted by unresolved traumas from the immediate past. Our lives were turned upside down and we, after a collective free fall, were suddenly and brutally thrown back on ourselves, leading to a plethora of experiences and feelings, but especially those of isolation and loneliness.
After his previous feature films, the ephemeral, only 22 minutes’Points grid ‘ (2018), and his rather experimental ambient record ‘After one’s own death / Spiraling home‘(2019), released under the nickname Nivhek, Liz Harris returns to Kranky with’Shadow’, his twelfth long-player as MÃ©rou.
Inspired by its deep connection to the Bay Area and the North Coast, the record features a collection of songs created over a 15-year span, recorded between Mount Tamalpais, Portland and, more recently, his hometown Astoria in the Oregon.
The timing for this record couldn’t be better, one might conclude, Harris being the undisputed mistress of the delicate painting of interior landscapes. She does this not only by exposing her own fragility and vulnerability so frankly, but by elevating these traits to her greatest virtues. Through this, Liz Harris creates a safe space for deceleration, rest and self-reflection, allowing the listener to face their own interior.
Unlike his previous records, which all seem to follow some sort of golden thread, ‘Shadow’ seems to be more of a collage than a cohesive narrative. Whereas, as Harris mentioned in an interview with Fork in 2018, it has about two hundred new or unpublished songs in its repertoire, the album and its fragmentary character appear as an attempt to inventory: what is there, what should we hang on and what can we let go?
The often haiku-esque lyrics on ‘Shadow’ revolve around topics of flaws, loss, love and withdrawal, to name a few, most of which reappear as a leitmotif in Grouper’s writings. Serious as his words may sound, Harris usually speaks them in a very tender manner; rather than cold, it’s like reading between the lines, trying to catch a glimpse of his vast poetic universe. What strikes me in particular is his ability to merge the lyrical and sonic dimensions in such an elaborate way; one has the impression that his words are a natural extension of the soundscape and vice versa, creating a strong onomatopoeic quality, intrinsic to his works.
Musically and sonically, Grouper’s latest album fits perfectly into the rest of his discography. After two LP – ‘Ruins’ and ‘Points grid ‘- to use the piano exclusively, Harris seems to have taken a few steps back and drew inspiration from the days before ‘Ruins’, resulting in a return to the acoustic guitar as the main instrument.
While the majority of songs clearly emphasize the unison between guitar and vocals, effortlessly creating the lush, reverberant sonic palette for which it is best known, others include elements that are just as important. to shape the aesthetic dimension of ‘Shadow’. In this case it is a spectrum of noise, the hissing of the tape and the field recordings as an allegory of the natural environment from which Harris drew inspiration, combined with a strong element of silence, speaking in Cageian terms, which all together contribute to the dreamlike quality of the dossier.
A song, in which she repeatedly tries to record a section, looks more like an outing than a finished composition; by giving such insight into her work process and, through it, openly exposing her flaws, she manages to create an even more intimate and personal atmosphere.
With ‘Shadow‘being a little less conventional than her previous records, Liz Harris is once again proving herself to be an artist capable of encapsulating the subtle gradations and gentle movements of the soul, which usually drown in the chatter of everyday life. Above all, it inspires a feeling of nostalgia and nostalgia – the German expression “Fernwehâ, For which there does not seem to be a suitable English translation, might be even more appropriate.
More personally, I’m grateful that this album has been released at this point: as fragile as it may seem, it can serve as a shelter, allowing us to deal with the still-frequent moments of feeling overwhelmed by the world returning to track. and to find stability in the new normal in which we still have to settle.
The release of “Shade” is scheduled for October 22 via Kranky. Order a copy from Band Camp.
LIST OF TRACKS
1. I followed the ocean
2. Unclean Spirit 03:51
3. Ode to blue 02:53
4. Pale interior
5. Disorderly minds
6. The way her hair falls out
8. Subsoil mix
9. Kelso (blue sky)