Even with the existence of Ruins, the 2014 record where she “purified” much of the murk and presented the most vulnerable version of herself yet, it can still be disarming to hear Grouper’s Liz Harris singing with just a elegiac piano to keep her company. This is someone whose best known work is buried in reverb and echoes and rustling wind and delivered in whispers so soft they might not even register unless you’re listening with headphones firmly pressed against your ear. While Ruins kept tads of that intact, it also put Harris center stage with little else to keep her company.
“Children” was a track Harris originally intended for Ruins but she couldn’t make it “fit the rest of the music” and eventually “forgot I’d recorded it.” She didn’t unearth it again until this year when chaos and “painful political times” made her reconsider the remergent song. There’s nothing inherently political to discern from “Children” but it is unquestionably of a piece with Ruins. For just under three minutes, all we hear is Harris at a piano gently playing notes that never subsume her soft exhalations. If a single line rises above the stillness of the song it’s Harris recounting “Once I woke up in a room, all the other dreamers were there, even as we slept we were sleeping, nobody knew we there.”
Irrespective of the backing, no matter if her voice is miles away and the reverb overwhelms everything, that’s as apt a throughline as any for Harris’ work as Grouper. This is the music of dreams, it’s the continuing soundtrack for a resting state that’s constantly teetering between the sublime and the sullen.
All proceeds from purchasing the song off of Bandcamp today, August 4, go to the Silvia Rivera Law Center, Transgender Law Center and Trans Assistance Project. Across the Bandcamp website, proceeds on August 4 are going to various trans causes.