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Grouper Grid of Points Kranky

The latest release from Grouper, aka Liz Harris, features the same stripped back instrumentation heard on 2014’s Ruins, using only piano, voice and occasional field recordings. Beyond that, Grid of Points is a very different record. The heavy, water-logged pianos have been swapped for brighter ones that gently ring with life. The once-muted vocals are relatively pronounced – on opening track The Races, Harris performs a breathy a cappella; the effect is like that of her throwing open the studio window, and letting a breeze gently kick up dust from the floor.

Then there’s the song-writing. Tracks from Ruins were orderly, relying on repetition and vaguely conventional structures, but Grid of Points is an unruly thing. Its seven sparse pieces, some of which better resemble sketches, are full of distracting moments and curious details that stick in your memory. Halfway through Parking Lot is a string of repeating chords which, like a roadblock, slow things down and reinforces attention. Driving, Blouse and Breathing all finish unresolved, their notes left to hang in the air like difficult questions. An off-kilter key in the heady Thanksgiving Song is a pleasantly jarring moment, arriving just before a very long, mid-song fade-out. It sounds like the piano is being slowly wheeled to the back of a warehouse, and away from the microphone.

Absence and understatement have always been favourite tools of Harris’, and in Grid of Points she deploys them to full effect. A sense of loss pervades throughout, but somehow, the album is also a strangely feel-good release – one that resonates with quiet, compelling confidence.