Shade Grouper Kranky
Shade, the title of Liz Harris’ 12th album as Grouper, suggests respite – a momentary break from the glare of the sun. In a sense, the music of Grouper has always been a source of respite to listeners; there’s a special comfort within Harris’ raw voice and the soothing, lo-fi instrumentation enveloping it.
Over the course of Shade’s nine tracks, it’s clear that Harris is also seeking solace by leaving the influence of the modern world to journey inward. Marked by its ambient hiss, album opener Followed the Ocean sets the tone: static, reverb-laden guitars mirror and muffled vocals invoke the chaotic hum of the US Pacific Coast, the album’s main inspiration. Following this maritime imagery is Ode to the Blue, in which a lone acoustic guitar line acts as a lullaby you might hear at sea, Harris melodically whispering, “An ode to blue/ What lives in shade.”
Like previous Grouper albums, Shade revels in simplicity and directness. The Way Her Hair Falls and Pale Interior are especially glimmering examples of this artistic economy, featuring the intertwining of guitar and Harris’ voice with little need for anything else. Within the carefully pared back framework, Harris creates a subtle tension and release that forms the emotional core of the album. And it’s in these moments that Harris demonstrates the height of her powers.