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The Man Who Died In His Boat

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iTunes Review

You might call Liz Harris—who performs as Grouper—an ambient artist. And you'd be half right. On its own, the word "ambient" sometimes implies too much distance, a sort of otherworldly sense of atmosphere. Grouper's music is ambient, but it's also deeply intimate, raw, and personal, even though the lyrics are elusive and the song shapes are as amorphous as water. Harris is a prolific and fascinating artist; the numerous albums in her catalog since 2005 ping-pong between ethereal folk and ambient psychedelia. Her songs don't cling to your inner ear due to hooks or melodies; they invade your senses like an incubus or virus. (We mean that in a good way!) Her hazy, delicate vocals float over layers of ambient hiss, sparse piano, and drifting guitar notes or muffled industrial noise. From a downcast, droney strum (from an open-tuned acoustic guitar) on numbers like "Cloud in Places" to haunted instrumental interludes like "Vanishing Point," The Man Who Died is an artful piece of work that's hard to shake. These songs were written around the time of her 2008 album Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, and feel very much apiece of that effort.

Customer Reviews

Her voice is hypnotizing

I look for songs with no lyrics, a good beat, and well placed bass. Doesn't mean I didn't grow up liking grunge. Grouper is a reincarnation of the mellower side of Nirvana and I like it. Bought 5 tracks off if 1 album, which is rare for me. Will mix the songs nicely with my Grimes selections :)

Daughter of the Firmanent, Neptune Exalted

Haunting, harrowing, ethereal--one sees these words again and again in descriptions of Grouper's music. As anyone who has seen Liz perform recently will realize, this album is a throwback (literally, it seems) to the sparse, guitar based melodies of "Dragging A Dead Deer..." And though I love all of her work, I must admit that gems like "Heavy Water/Rather Be Sleeping" are what drew me in to her songs of exquisite ethereal beauty. So for new listeners this album may be more accessible. As far as the intelligibility of the lyrics go, I have to agree with anyone who might draw comparisons to Cocteau Twins, MBV, or Sigur Ros. Though to be honest, I think a much more fitting comparison would be the work of the 12th century German Abbess Hildegard Von Bingen (sung in Latin.) To me, it adds an enigmatic quality to the music while conjuring angelic choirs and ghostly laments (pretty incredible when you realize it's just one voice with some simple effects.) Nonetheless, I commiserate with the frustration because I do believe that Liz is saying something worthwhile, though I can't often decipher what that is. All I can say is that I can spend an hour watching it snow, Grouper in my ears, and feel like I've been floating in a sea of Alprazolam. Listen and make up your own mind.

It Frustrates Me When Vocalists Won't Enunciate

This music is etherially beautiful, and I had hoped to love it. But I can't understand a single lyric. I can't pick any words out of the slow-moving, ambient soundwave of the album. Grouper mumbles all her lyrics, and washes it in so much reberb that the effect is like clouds billowing by, with no definite shape. It's alright if that what she's going for, but it's not my bag of tea. I get really annoyed with music when I can't understand the lyrics. When I was a teenager I used to sit with the CD's liner notes and keep referring back to them while I listened to the CD, and then I would refer back to the lyric sheet as many times as I needed to on subsequent listenings, but the thought of doing that now just makes me tired. I like pretty music, but I want to be able to hear and understand the lyrics. Otherwise, there's no difference between this and the new age-y ambient music I can hear at the local incense shop.


Born: Portland, OR

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A one-woman ambient project from Portland, Oregon, Grouper -- aka Liz Harris -- first appeared with the self-released full-length CD-R Grouper in 2005. Later that year, and then signed to Free Porcupine, Grouper released the critically acclaimed Way Their Crept. From there, a series of recordings were made available, including a 3" CD entitled He Knows in 2006 and the 12" Weird Forest release Wide in 2007. In the meantime, Harris earned extra props from the genre as a whole with her 2006 collaboration...
Full Bio

Top Albums and Songs by Grouper

The Man Who Died In His Boat, Grouper
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