Sunday, August 14, 2011

Liz Harris (Grouper) - Mirror Hall pt. 1: Jeweled Light

Last year, Liz Harris better known to the world as Grouper released a small art book on the venerable Root Strata label. Liz's art is actually quite evocative of her music in some ways. It's often incredibly dense,  made up of repeating, interwoven patterns and is quite beautiful. But for me, the real point of interest was the dvd that came with the book. Clocking in at over an hour long, the movie is a continuation of Liz's art in moving images and, given that there's music playing the whole time, in sound - the medium by which we know her best. What we have here is that piece of music, all 66 minutes of it. The piece is an epic tape collage, water logged, absolutely drenched in reverb and murmuring static. Field recordings filter through the murk at times, distant and bathed in fuzz or hazed almost to the point of pure texture. Around a quarter of an hour in, Liz's trademark electric piano, trembling and melancholy rises to the surface, contending with a veritable avalanche of static that sounds like a hurricane heard from some bunker deep underground. Around 25 minutes in, thing turn sinister, a menacing series of overtones - courtesy of Rob Fisk on viola - cut through the swirling swoosh of decaying radios and distant thunderstorms that have taken us this far. Voices can be heard in far off corners, a thrum of reverb and a menacing low, almost reminiscent of the quieter moments from The North Sea takes us down dark corridors, ghostly and dreadful. Eventually we are back in the world of gently murmuring static, wind in microphones, the sounds, perhaps, of a city far beneath, interrupted by at long last by Harris' voice as we've come to expect it - a chorus, fragile, mournful, utterly haunting and lovely. We veer then into more straight up drone territory, the static is all but gone, pianos ring out, waver, keen, mournful, beneath an almost Stars of the Lid dronescape. This passage is transportive, entrancing, lovely and sad. After the 50 minute mark, we're back in Grouper territory, drone-y and washed out, reverb and static, flickering, hazy vocals. More static. A single, plaintive piano wanders, picks up a sinister clip over an ever growing mess of feedback - again shades of the North Sea here - and this too then gives way to yet another Grouper-esque moment of keyboard and static wash. With five minutes to spare, there is more darkness, more rumbling like forgotten machines built for nefarious purposes, a buzzing line of feedback over a wash of static like cars passing over rainslicked pavement, slowly fading into silence.

Unfortunately Divide is sold out but you can buy more great stuff from Root Strata here.

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