Grouper The Man Who Died In His Boat

[Kranky; 2013]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: drone, folk
Others: Flying Saucer Attack, Ilyas Ahmed, Roy Montgomery, Tiny Vipers, not Julianna Barwick


“English which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear has no words for the shiver or the headache…”
– Virginia Woolf, On Illness

“…but Grouper is just too raw and scary for me to want to really dig deeper. The bruises are still soft.”
– Reed Scott Reid

“…insisting on the human, the pure, the tonal, etc., to the point that all of them are questioned and eventually meaningless.”
– Collin Anderson

01. I’m much less interested in “mastering” Grouper than I am in listening to Grouper. This posture, I admit, makes me a bad critic.

02. I seem to always put Grouper on when I need consolation. It’s not that Grouper is consoling, but that Grouper provides (for me) a habitation in which feelings can bend and fold over themselves.

03. There are gestures in her music that are so touching, or so beautiful, they leave me dumbstruck.

04. That’s (at least partially) why I have so little to say about The Man Who Died In His Boat.

05. I listened to it while walking along the river the other day. The sun was out.

06. What else can I say but that I recommend the same?

07. Sometimes, as a music writer, I think it’s necessary to make music conform to theory. I like to understand what I’m hearing in relation to an idea.

08. Other times, I’m overwhelmed by things and ideas, and I just want to listen, not write.

09. It might seem arbitrary at this point, but the exchange above between Reed and Collin was in regard to the difference between Julianna Barwick and Grouper. This was back in 2010, when we were finalizing our personal year-end lists. The concern was that when you listened to Barwick, you knew where you were going, but when you listened to Grouper, you were taking your chances. Liz Harris is not an easy guide, and listening to Grouper is difficult. There are few reference points within her songs, and listening itself becomes like sinking or drowning.

10. But sometimes you just have to let go. Sometimes it’s the best you can do.

11. And Woolf, well, she was right: there is no meaningful vocabulary of pain.

Links: Grouper - Kranky