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Grouper's Latest Leaves Ambient Behind for Ethereal Piano Ballads

Grid of Points is rife with soul-deep suffocating beauty.


June 19, 2018 | by Dan Alvarez


Grid of Points

Yellow Electric

Grade: A-

Writing about Grouper is tricky, because it feels like everybody experiences her music differently. I’m not sure where her gorgeous, piano-driven new LP will take you, but I know where it takes me.

It takes me to half-remembered long drives through foggy backcountry roads near Fort Bragg, Valley Crossing, and Point Reyes — surrounded by dense forests and arrowing straight toward the ocean. Sheets of rain open-hand slapping my windshield like Ric Flair.

Now living 3,000 miles from those roads that I (and she) grew up on, the 21-minute disc leaves me comforted but missing home. People tend to describe the Bay Area native’s music using words like “hallucinatory” or “otherworldly,” but Grid of Points is anything but. It is life music — capturing all of those little moments of beauty, pain, joy, and loss — and mixing them all up into songs that aren’t any of one thing and little bits of all of it.

Liz Harris never tells you what to think, what she’s thinking, or often, even what she’s actually saying. That ambiguity makes the decipherable lyrics wield even more power. Whether she’s recalling a highway wreck with her mother on “Driving” or saying goodbye to a loved one on staggering closer “Breathing,” the carefully sprinkled lyrics provide just enough to light to fill in the gaps yourself. How these songs make you feel isn’t important; it’s just important that you feel.

And this project is a total success in that regard. It’s yet another valuable, amorphous piece of her inarguable discography that will grow and change right along with you. It’s true that the 21-minute project feels a bit truncated, and that’s likely due to the fact that it was written and recorded in about 10 days. But each of the seven songs play an essential role on the disc, which will wash over you track-by-track until — like all truly good things — it ends far before you want it to.

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