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grouper - The Man Who Died In His Boat
Following a series of impossible-to-obtain releases for her own Yellowelectric imprint and a CD compilation of her gorgeous 'A I A' set, Liz Harris seems to have settled with Kranky who are re-releasing her classic Type album 'Dragging a Dead Deer..' and this new album of previously unreleased material drawn from the same period: 'The Man Who Died In His Boat'. It's not so hard to believe but we'll say this straight away - the material on this new set is just jaw-dropping, a worthy companion piece to 'Dragging a Dead Deer' - once again finding Harris delivering material edging ever so slightly towards more traditional 'songs' but executed with so much introspection and mystery that she really sounds unlike anyone, or anything, you'll have ever heard before. The record has an interesting backstory, as Harris explains - "When I was a teenager the wreckage of a sailboat washed up on the shore of Agate Beach. The remains of the vessel weren't removed for several days. I walked down with my father to peer inside the boat cabin. Maps, coffee cups and clothing were strewn around inside. "I remember looking only briefly, wilted by the feeling that I was violating some remnant of this man's presence by witnessing the evidence of its failure. Later I read a story about him in the paper. It was impossible to know what had happened. The boat had never crashed or capsized. He had simply slipped off somehow, and the boat, like a riderless horse, eventually came back home." The narrative somehow enhances the songs - an achingly beautiful combination of forlorn, reverb-drenched lullabies draped in a veil of isolation reminding us of a more damaged Mark Kozelek, and indeed the classic 4AD sound with which Grouper has been compared so many times in the past. By the time you reach the closing track 'Living Room', however, you come to the realisation that despite her best efforts to obscure her songs, Harris might just be one of the most gifted songwriters of her generation. An incredible album - possibly her finest yet.