Grouper (musician)

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Grouper
Harris performing as Grouper in Glasgow, 2012
Harris performing as Grouper in Glasgow, 2012
Background information
Birth nameElizabeth Anne Harris[1]
Born (1980-07-15) July 15, 1980 (age 41)
West Marin, California, U.S.
OriginAstoria, Oregon
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • producer
Years active2005–present
Labels
  • YELLOWELECTRIC
  • Root Strata
  • West 25th
  • Peak Oil
  • Kranky

Grouper is the solo project of American musician, artist and producer Liz Harris (born July 15, 1980).[a] She has released material on her own label and other independent labels since 2005. Grouper released the critically acclaimed Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill in 2008, followed by five more records, including a two-part album, A I A, and the piano-led album Ruins. Her twelfth album, Shade, was released in 2021.

Grouper has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Xiu Xiu, Tiny Vipers (as the duo Mirrorring), Roy Montgomery, The Bug, Lawrence English (as Slow Walkers), and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (as Raum).

History[edit]

Harris was born July 15, 1980 in Northern California and grew up around the San Francisco Bay area.[3] She grew up in a Fourth Way commune there which was inspired by the philosophy of George Gurdjieff. The community was known as "The Group", which would later serve as some inspiration for the moniker Grouper. According to Harris, the kids called each other and the parents 'groupers' sort of as a defiance. She says: "It was us making our own identities inside a pretty controlled environment, and sort of lashing back maybe... When I had to think of a name I felt annoyed at nothing sounding right. I wanted something that referenced me without referencing 'Me.'" According to her, she "felt like the music was at its barest just a grouping of sounds, and I was just the grouper."[4]

After finishing college, Harris briefly moved to Los Angeles, where she worked with Mayo Thompson at Patrick Painter.[5] Harris is now based in Oregon. Harris’ first album was 2005’s Grouper, a self-released full-length CD-R, followed later that year by Way Their Crept on Free Porcupine (re-released in 2007 on Type Records). In 2006 she released a single (He Knows), one album, called Wide, and a collaboration with Xiu Xiu entitled Creepshow. Harris made available new material steadily through the years, and continued to collaborate with various artists such as Roy Montgomery and Xela.

In 2008 she released Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, her breakthrough album.[6] An AllMusic reviewer Heather Phares praised the album for showing more musical range than Harris' previous work and for "letting more melody, more structured songs, and even a few phrases emerge from the ether."[7] Pitchfork gave it 8.2 stars calling the work "an arresting album of pastoral psychedelic pop".[8]

In 2011, Grouper released an album consisting of two parts: A I A: Dream Loss and A I A: Alien Observer, which was critically acclaimed by Pitchfork, while the latter part was noted for being more accessible of the two discs.[9]

Early in 2012, Grouper performed Violet Replacement in the UK and Europe, a pair of longform tape collage pieces which originally took shape for commissioned performances in New York and Berkeley. She also collaborated with Jesy Fortino of Tiny Vipers to release an album Foreign Body under their common moniker Mirrorring.

At Berlin's Club Transmediale festival in early February 2012 Harris performed Circular Veil in collaboration with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.[3] Somewhere between an installation and a performance, it found her extending her more concise music outward into eight hours of music, designed to mimic one full sleep cycle.

In 2013, Harris released an album, The Man Who Died in His Boat.

Grouper's studio album titled Ruins was released on October 31, 2014. The album is relatively stripped-down; piano, voice and field recordings.[10] The majority of the album was recorded in Aljezur, Portugal in 2011, while Harris was on a residency set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois.[11] That same year she appeared on The Bug's album providing vocals for the track "Void".[12]

In 2015, Grouper collaborated with an independent filmmaker Paul Clipson on the film Hypnosis Display, commissioned by Leeds Opera North.[13]

In 2016, Grouper released a 7" entitled 'Paradise Valley'.[14]

In 2017, Grouper was one of the curators for the 11th edition of the Dutch Le Guess Who? festival. Her curated program included films La Double Vie de Véronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Lighthouse by Paul Clipson and music performances from artists Marisa Anderson, William Basinski, Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubelski duo, Brötzmann/Leigh, Ekin Fil, Keiji Haino, Roy Montgomery, Coby Sey, Tiny Vipers, Wolfgang Voigt and Richard Youngs.[15]

On March 8, 2018, Grouper announced a new album Grid of Points and released the first single "Parking Lot" from the album.[16] The album was released on April 27 via Kranky.

On July 27, 2021, Harris announced a new Grouper album, Shade, and released its first single "Unclean Mind". The album was released on October 22 via Kranky. It features songs that were recorded over the past fifteen years.[17]

Musical style[edit]

The style of Grouper is sparse ambient music, making use of acoustic guitar, piano and housed vocal loops.[18][19] Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Andy Downing noted a primitive and collage approach to how Harris constructs soundscapes.[20]

During her days as a part of a Fourth Way commune, Harris' primary sources for discovering music were limited. With a little help from her parents, whose musical tastes were eccentric and divergent, she discovered Eastern European folk and American avant-pop. Through her father, who himself was a composer, she would later discover contemporary classical and early music.[21] In 2008, when she released Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, Pitchfork compared it to classic ethereal releases from the British label 4AD, drawing comparisons to Cocteau Twins[8] and early His Name Is Alive.[22] The Portland Mercury described some songs from the album, such as "Wind and Snow" and "Stuck", sonically reminiscent of the Renaissance period composers Gesualdo and Monteverdi.[21]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

EPs and Singles[edit]

  • He Knows (2006)
  • Tried (2007)
  • Hold/Sick (2010)
  • Water People (2011)
  • Violet Replacement| Pt. I: Rolling Gate (2012)
  • Violet Replacement| Pt. II: Sleep (2012)
  • Paradise Valley (2016)
  • Children (2017)

Collaborations[edit]

  • Creepshow as "Xiu Xiu vs. Grouper" (2006)
  • Eckords. with Jorge Behringer as "Flash Lights" (2006)
  • Visitor with Ilyas Ahmed (2011)
  • Foreign Body with Tiny Vipers as "Mirroring" (2012)
  • Slow Walkers with Lawrence English as "Slow Walkers" (2013)
  • The Event of Your Leaving with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma as "Raum" (2013)
  • Felt This Way/Dying All The Time with Jed Bindeman and Scott Simmons as "Helen" (2014)
  • Void and Black Wasp with The Bug (2014)

Split Releases[edit]

  • Split with Pumice (2009)
  • Grouper/City Center with City Center (2009)
  • Tsuki No Seika Volume One with Xela (2009)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Harris revealed her birthdate in a post via her official Instagram account, which reads: "Two months [after the eruption of Mount St. Helens,] I squealed my way into the world on Ian Curtis’ birthday" (Curtis was born July 15, 1956).[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ratliff, Ben. "Grouper's Liz Harris Explains the Art of the Paradox and the Beauty of Mistakes". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  2. ^ Harris, Liz (grouperepuorg) (May 18, 2020). "Mt St Helen 40 years ago today. Two months later I squealed my way into the world on Ian Curtis' birthday, who died two weeks after the eruption". Instagram. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Myers, Owen (2013). "Grouper". Dazed. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  4. ^ Clarke, Cary. "Our Town Could Be Your Life". The Portland Mercure. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Listening & Playing Alone: The Strange World Of Grouper". The Quietus. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  6. ^ Symonds, Alexandria (November 7, 2014). "Grouper". Interview. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  7. ^ Phares, Heather. "AllMusic Review by Heather Phares". AllMusic. Retrieved March 24, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ a b McGonigal, Mike. "Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  9. ^ Richardson, Mark. "A I A: Alien Observer". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  10. ^ True, Chris. "Biography by Chris True". AllMusic. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  11. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (August 14, 2014). "Grouper Announces New Album Ruins". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Kalev, Maya. "Grouper On Her New Album: "Ruins Helped Crack Me Open."". The Fader. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Interview: Grouper and Paul Clipson discuss 'Hypnosis Display'". KQED Arts. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  14. ^ Bowe, Miles. "Grouper releases surprise 7" Paradise Valley". Factmag. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  15. ^ "Explore Grouper's curated program for Le Guess Who? 2017". Le Guess Who?. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  16. ^ "Grouper announces new album Grid Of Points". Factmag.com. March 8, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  17. ^ Minsker, Evan (July 27, 2021). "Grouper Announces New Album Shade, Shares New Song "Unclean Mind": Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  18. ^ Mejía, Paula (September 17, 2019). "Grouper". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  19. ^ Ryan, Larry (August 13, 2010). "Grouper Therapy". The Independent. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  20. ^ Downing, Andy (November 27, 2013). "Grouper". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Clarke, Cary. "Our Town Could Be Your Life". The Portland Mercury. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  22. ^ Phares, Heather. "AllMusic Review by Heather Phares". AllMusic.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]