Boomkat Product Review:
*Beautiful 2CD edition of Grouper's two 'A I A' albums 'Alien Observer' and 'Dream Loss' - available on CD for the first time and including both albums in full packaged in a gorgeous gatefold digipak* At this point you shouldn't need any introduction to Liz Harris, better known to most as Grouper. She's got a few albums and splits under her belt now, but chances are the first time you came across her music was the stunningy beautiful modern classic 'Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill', released back in 2008. It was the distinct and singular blend of shimmering dream-pop and tape-mangled noise that had just about anyone worth their salt in awe of her music, so you can imagine the hype surrounding this brand new record. Ah, but then it's not only one record is it? A I A is two full forty minute full-lengths, and rather than a traditional double, these are two very distinct albums, each one with its own focus and style. 'Alien Observer' might be the more outwardly song-based of the two records, and while the songs aren't necessarily as clearly defined as those on 'Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill', they slowly and pointedly push up through Liz's familiar gaseous layers of drone. Her distinct, breathy tones are initially barely audible over the mudded harmonies, starting life as ghostly echoes, but the further you get into each track the more clearly defined shapes start to emerge. It's music that no doubt changes with each listen and listener - you're left to fill in the gaps, and while we can hear the heaving breaths of the Cocteau Twins, The Red House Painters and This Mortal Coil wrenching themselves from the subconscious, you would probably come to a different conclusion altogether. 'Dream Loss' is the murkier, more grimy counterpart to 'Alien Observer's distant pop and travels still further into Liz's astral tape haze and noisy, vocal ambience. While the record might begin unassumingly enough with the downplayed 'Dragging the Streets', 'I Saw A Ray' greets us with a volcanic slither of noise and calloused harmony. This deeply buried melancholy transports us through the album, and while the noise subsides to make way for Liz's familiar layered vocal loops and subtle, withdrawn songs, the character and texture is still one of distortion and fragmentation as opposed to the occasional overt prettiness exhibited on 'Alien Observer'. As Liz mentioned in the run-up to this ambitious double release, the albums are two very separate works, yet somehow feed off eachother when heard together. To hear one without the other is to only hear a single element of the whole piece - 'Dream Loss' adds the darkness, and in sinking deep into it we get a whole new understanding for 'Alien Observer'. It's a harrowing trip, but one laced with beauty, restraint and that unquantifiable magic that seems to grace mostly anything Liz Harris touches.