For anyone requiring hints about how Kanye West’s new material might sound, Grouper’s ‘Grid of Points’ could provide the answer. It’s a mismatch on paper – Kanye’s scream-into-the-void maximalism is in stark contrast to the spacious quiet of Liz Harris’ work – but both artists appear to have found creative inspiration from western U.S. state Wyoming. That is, after all, where various rappers have been flying, reportedly for Kanye’s ninth studio album; it’s also where Harris recorded her 11th LP in just over a week.
Harris’ stint in Wyoming may have lasted longer if she hadn’t been struck down by a high fever. But once back to full health, she returned to the seven songs she’d created and decided her work was done. “Though brief, it is complete,” she says of ‘Grid of Points’, which runs for just 22 minutes.
It is indeed enough time for Harris to cast a spell; a constant over her decade-plus career. Previous records, like the gloom-filled ‘Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill’, were a sorrowful mesh of de-tuned guitars. This time, she opts for piano keys that are so loosely arranged, the melody barely holds itself together. Vocals are overlapped, words and phrases are hard to pick out. She could be singing about the price of eggs or the dwindling price of cryptocurrency for all anyone cares, but these songs still have the same effect – somehow sounding both beautiful and overwhelmingly sad at once.
‘Grid of Points’ is more unfiltered than previous Grouper records. ‘Blouse’ ends abruptly just as it begins to bloom, and the disjointed ‘Thanksgiving Song’ sounds like two bleary-eyed tracks knotted into one. At times, Harris could easily be making it up on the spot (although most of us wouldn’t have as much success by keeping our feet lodged on a piano’s sustain pedal, hitting random keys).
That’s the magic of Grouper: it’s useless working out exactly how she makes emotion-filled, affecting music using such abstract tools. ‘Grid of Points’ is a seemingly-unfinished bunch of loose ends that somehow appear complete when combined. Further evidence of Harris’ dark art, for which she has no real peers.