Review Summary: "Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill" collapsed and condensed, "Ruins" is Grouper's reflective and nostalgic masterpiece.
Listening to Grouper has always been an intensely personal experience. Crafting music that is both reserved and understated, Liz Harris has always had penchant for inspiring listeners to reflect upon the silence between sounds. Her music is like a specter- -visible but weightless and surreal. Emptiness fills much of her music and within these voids lie some of the most evocative sounds you’re likely to find. Yet as an artist she has been consistently lauded for her 2008 effort, Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
, which reveled in the messy light. It was big, bold, and aimless. Nonetheless it was a beautiful and weightless marvel which she has finally dismantled and built into something new.
Grouper has retreated into the recess of her music; locking the door and throwing away the key. The record is a dark and polarizing compliment to her masterpiece, featuring a somber and lonely tone that feels completely isolated. Interestingly, it also feels like a companion piece to The Man Who Died In His Boat
. Like said album, Ruins
is a condensed form of Grouper’s sound, with sparse instrumentation and ethereal, ambient backdrops. Whereas last year’s album was more guitar driven, here the keyboard is greatly favored. The empty atmosphere allows for Liz to create some haunting melodies, with “Lighthouse” in particular sounding painfully depressing.
Listening to Ruins
was strangely nostalgic. Not because Grouper is treading old ground, nor from it sounding to derivative. Rather, there is something relate-able within these airy tunes. There is a tangible, human sadness that Liz has (almost regrettably) captured here and it’s beautifully tragic. Few artists can capture a mood or fleeting feeling like Grouper, and with Ruins
she has done just that.