Grouper’s new album, “Ruins,” opens on nothing more than a deep drumbeat, like that of a heart. For the next two minutes you get a simple repetition of this beat and little else to wrap our ears around, only the momentary interruption of a bird call. Only when Liz Harris’ voice and piano finally lead does this turn into a proper song. It feels less like you turn away from the intro’s quietude and more like you’re delving further into it.
Besides the recurring field recordings: frogs, storms, even a microwave beep, the music is remarkably bare; just Harris singing and playing piano. Both of her instruments she plays slowly and simply. Her voice glides gradually over soft piano tones. She is often content to let both fade all the way to silence before taking up the song once more. The songs, as a result, take a while to wash over or pass through you. You could speed them up and sing them a little more forcefully and maybe you’d end up with pop ballads, but Harris is keen to let you (or make you) savor each note individually.
It’s a wonderful vibe to get lost in. It’s hushed, and sublime. I could see myself maybe falling asleep to it, but I mean that in the best way. It’s thought-provoking, emotional, and well-crafted. It’s probably Grouper’s best work. It’s definitely worth listening to.