TRACK LIFE: Grouper – “Vital”
Welcome to Track Life, a new daily column in which Jacob Knight shares what he thinks to be the best in music, both new and old.
For all of its “bedroom” simplicity, Liz Harris’ music (recorded under the moniker Grouper) has the power to both distance and connect with a listener simultaneously. On “Vital,” from this year’s excellent The Man Who Dies on His Boat (out via Kranky), her voice is reminiscent of Mazzy Star in the midst of a balls out Robo-Trip. As tape hiss surrounds her acoustic guitar and crackles on the edges of her lyrics, the song sounds as if she recorded in a cavernous, medieval church while waiting for her own funeral to begin. The slides and scrapes of her fingers against her guitar strings almost act as a third instrument; the crude, more than likely inadvertently created noise adding texture to the mix.
“Vital”, much like the work of Jeff Mangum or Leonard Cohen, is music meant to be enjoyed in private, haunting and almost mystical in its ability to evoke raw emotion. But there’s a warmth here, too, as the lyrics are stretched and moaned, sounding almost like some kind of female Gregorian chant. And just as Harris’ voice and guitar fade away, we’re left with what sounds like a commercial jet flying overhead, the last pass over this house of mortality.