Review Summary: Sounds from the afterlife.
Death must feel like wandering a Liz Harris record on repeat. There must be some sort of portal in her apartment in Astoria, a gate to the other side of music where she usually harvests otherworldly sounds and endless layers of reverb. The artist better known as Grouper is back from the void with a new set of ethereal souvenirs, this time under a brand-new moniker.
Nivhek is a collection of recordings made by Harris during residencies in Azores (Portugal) and in Murmansk (Russia), as well as home recordings made in her home. To link the dots, her time in Portugal made also possible the release in 2014 of Grouper's piano driven Ruins
, an improvised affair in solitude that served Harris to deal with what she described at that time as "emotional garbage". In this sense, Harris first collection of works as Nivhek is of the same raw and fleeting nature. The four tracks that comprise After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house
exist without a structure, stretching out like a never-ending dream and registering everything that's happening in the room at the moment of the recording with vivid fidelity. From Harris' oneiric singing to people entering the room and talking in the middle of After its own death
's side B, everything seems to have been preserved as it happened, including a violent distortion burst in the midst of it all.
In comparison to last year's Grid of Points
, this project seems more focused on Harris' experimentation with instruments she has played with during her long-time career as Grouper. As such, there are long Mellotron passages, abyssal guitar parts and field recordings, all through the broken lens of unstable pedal effects captured through her usually modest recording methods. Her voice is scattered through the first 2 tracks, elusive and celestial, and it disappears completely through sides C and D. This means that her first work as Nivhek might just be an outlet for her most unpredictable instrumental sessions, separating her latest work as Grouper which features Harris' voice in abundance from the loose canon of this archived material. Regardless of Liz Harris' intentions with this new release, After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house
is just one more addition to the artist's fantastic catalog, and hopefully the first of many unearthed secrets to be recovered and released in the future.