Grouper – Grid Of Points (Kranky, 2018)

Grid Of Points

I often feel like I have a great deal to say, and either nobody to say it to or the inability to articulate myself adequately. It’s an itch, an ache, this feeling of constrained emotion and no way to express it in a satisfying way. I think it bleeds out subconsciously, inviting its way into snippets of speech, of my outward manner, of how and what I write, emulsifying quietly into conveyance but never quite reaching catharsis.

It’s a sort of loneliness I suppose, though frequently impermanent, thoughts deliberately veiled, a swirling amalgam of needs, desires and tensions bubbling over before eventually dissipating. If you were to take a snapshot of one of these instances of frustration I suppose it would sound quite a lot like Grid Of Points, a brief (only 20 minute) smear of indistinct vocals and simple, elegant piano lines.

There are two particularly touching moments here that I think are career highlights for Liz: the first is the sublime intimacy of “Driving”, which is particularly noticeable here where most of the 7 pieces are lost to a haze.

I wonder if you realise

How much I love you

Snatches of thought can be heard plainly here, relishing in the closed proximity of a car: the figures are alone together, separated from the world by steel and glass and the asphalt guide, away from the anxieties of interaction with others. The second is penultimate “Blouse”, all angelic and floaty, words barely even registering in their silken crooning over the soft piano strokes in wholesome, suggestive pleasantry.

The others are little more pointed, and move with more forcefulness as a result. “Parking Lot” (which seems like a rework of Ruins piece “Call Across Rooms”) juxtaposes against the freedom of the moving vehicle, its plain piano dusted with indeterminate vocals that feel guarded and uncomfortable in idleness. The strain of presence is too much to bear here, too much pressure to be forthright in opening up. “Thanksgiving Song” has an echo of this sentiment, though it seems to bubble over almost, Liz moving in webs of whispering, hushed singing. It feels papery and mingling, crossed thoughts meshing and melding in their dissolution as the weight lifts.

But it’s in closer “Breathing” where we feel conclusion, voice harmonising into sync with the piano before the placidity is steamrollered by the blast and clattering of a train running right through its heart, jolting us back into the real world and barring off the other side of the emotional tracks in the process.

It’s difficult to talk about a record that, with such brevity, encapsulates so much feeling. It churns and broils and melts in every passage, oozing in its solitude, always on the reach of explanation. It bares itself to us in a few precious moments, select chinks in the armour, before tightening the cloak around its gauzy seclusion. It’s deeply disappointing that this isn’t longer, and yet I wouldn’t want it any other way, wouldn’t wish for it to spend any more time mired within itself.