There’s a sort of stale lingua franca between fans of Liz Harris’ work as Grouper in describing her music. Words such as: dreamy, tender, yearning, aching, melancholic, distanced, quiet, muted, dark, unadorned, sparse, reserved, alien, watery and earthy are all common words in the Grouper vocabulary. And to some degree it’s logical that this would be the case. Harris’ music, though gently nodding to past work from say Flying Saucer Attack or Mazzy Star or Sibylle Baier, is a world unto itself. There isn’t much of a past or current precedent for what she’s doing. So developing such a shorthand, no matter how stale, helps to understand her.
Going forward, after the surprise release of the Paradise Valley 7″, the word “close” might well be added to the common language. There have been past Grouper songs that seem to whisper right to you, “Living Room” being a stellar example of this. But words were just curlicuing around your ears. Harris could’ve been in the room below and you were only hearing what had wafted up.
With “Headache,” the A-Side to Paradise Valley, Harris seems to be strumming her ever echoing guitar right in front of you. Instead of see the final ripples of a pebble fall into a pond, you’re in the epicenter. Each slide of her finger up and down the strings is audible. “Was it this costume, weighing me down?” Harris wanders out loud. Even now, when she’s right standing right out in the open, Harris is as mysterious to both herself and her audience as she’s ever been.
(Paul Clipson created a fairly subdued clip to accompany the track and you can it, along with the Paradise Valley B-Side, below.)