Secret Meeting score: 83
by Philip Moss
In the harsh winter of 2014, Liz Harris found herself in Northern Wyoming. She was alone and temperatures dropped well below zero. All she had for company was an upright piano, but the isolation, somehow, provided inspirational conditions.
After a week and a half of writing and recording, she fell ill and the production ceased. But the record was complete. Grid Of Points: a series of sketched poetic ideas, encapsulated a week-long series of soul searching moments. At just 22 minutes long, her record label, Kranky, deemed it too short, and before listening to the record you can understand their concerns. At just seven songs long, it does seemingly fall into the EP category. But that’s most certainly not how the visionary Harris saw things.
Unlike the vast majority of works recorded under the Grouper moniker, which see Harris lean heavily on washes of reverb-laden acoustic guitars, the record is performed exclusively on piano (bar the 50 second a cappella opener, The Races, which is as brief as it is beautiful). In this respect, Grid Of Points feels most like 2014’s release, Ruins.
On lead single, Parking Lot, Harris’ fingers fall like the Wyoming snow that enveloped her during the recording process and, with her voice reminiscent of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, the simplicity is what makes it so stunningly haunting. This, and the fact that the words are swimming in so much reverb, the lyrics somehow resonate without really being able to decipher exactly what it is she’s saying.
‘I am a child, it is a gift my mother gave me,’ opens Driving- its icy, soaring, reflective vocals are backed as much by the tape hum and the sound of the room as they are by the piano’s keys. Thanksgiving Song’s vocal layering creates a collage of cocooned magnificence, the ironically titled Birthday Song has a disturbed emotional quality that will please fans of Julia Holter, before the divine Breathing – completed by a two minute field recording that captures the passing rumble of a coal train – brings the journey to a close.
While the record may be slight in length, it more than makes up for it in emotion. This is a record that is desperate to seep into your consciousness, so if 22 minutes seems modest, drop the needle again and lose yourself in its splendour.