Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Single: Grouper - "Rising Height"

Single: Rising Height
Soft Abuse, 2009
Rating: ******** (8/10)

Enigmatic one-woman band Grouper will be releasing a split single with tourmate Pumice this spring. I've avoided writing about Grouper so far, not because I'm not aware of it and not because I haven't noticed that it's really good, but because I generally don't have the attention-span to concentrate well enough on Liz Harris's slowcore ambiance to write anything intelligent. But I figured I could handle one song, so here goes.

"Rising Height" features Grouper's usual murky guitar noise, this achieved mostly by using an ungodly amount of reverb. The result is a dense, dark cloud of atmosphere, more reminiscent of the mournful creaking of old boards than an electric guitar and some effects pedals. It's a rhythmless, formless tide of sound that never touches ground.

Yet under this slow tide, Harris's slow, pristine vocals float mournfully, occasionally surfacing for a momentary major chord before slipping back under the droning. It's a chilling effect, made all the more potent by the massive reverb coating both guitar and vocals - though the effects are no doubt digital, it sounds most like it was recorded in an ancient, empty cathedral. Intentionally or not, the song's minor modal chords and echoey sound evoke the solemn spirituality of Gregorian chants or medieval Christmas hymns. It's powerfully haunting, somber, brooding and beautiful.

I heard the song on Gorilla vs. Bear and you can too.

Grouper on MySpace

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