Grouper – A I A: Dream Loss / Alien Observer
Grouper is Liz Harris from Portland, Oregon. She creates the fractured soundtracks to your dreams (and nightmares). Over the past 5 years or so she has self-released her work on everything from CD-R to vinyl and really made a name for herself with 2008‘s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, an album that made many ‘best-of’ lists and earned her the attention of other experimental artists such as Animal Collective.
Dragging a Dead Deer was one of those rare albums that fascinated me as much as it frustrated me. There was something gorgeous on that album, something alive. Alive, but dying. It was almost like listening to somebody being drown. Drown in waves of reverb, only being let up for air long enough to let some indistinct sounds escape before being pulled under again. Back then I just wanted to save the protagonist from the lo-fi deluge. I wanted to uncover what had been buried underneath. But now that I’ve had more time with the album, I appreciate that it’s difficult and I realize that what does exist under the impenetrable coating would never live up to my imagination.
The two parts of A I A, essentially two full albums titled Dream Loss and Alien Observer, continue the distant, reverb soaked drone that we have come to expect from Grouper, yet this time I don’t feel like anything is hidden. Instead, I feel like the instrumental coating encasing the subject is actually a protective layer…allowing for a journey across space and time. The loss of dreams and the observation of aliens (internal and external) can be a frightening thing, but it can also be beautiful and both aspects are represented here.
Once again Harris has created a body of work that exists perfectly in that time between the end of the day and the beginning of the night. That time when your eyes are wide shut and your mind has yet to slow down. A I A provides something to focus on, it provides a type of cerebral novocaine. And if you are like me, 80+ mins of mind numbing relaxation is a priceless state of being. Anything that can stop the constant loop is worth my time. Speaking of which, what is it with black and white album covers this year? And why can’t I find anywhere to actually purchase the vinyl? And what does A I A stand for? And…and…and… Alright, time to start Dream Loss over again and make it all stop!