Hear Grouper’s Gorgeous, Cavernous ‘Vital’ From Unreleased ‘Deer’-Era Album

Grouper Liz Harris The Man Who Died In His Boat

Those not yet blessed with the gift of Grouper will soon get the chance to become deeply familiar with the aqueous dream-drone songs that put Portland’s Liz Harris on the map back in 2008. That’s the year that her beautifully terse LP, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, was released via the tiny Type Records. As those melodically rich mood pieces slowly made the rounds, the album became harder to find in physical form, but the venerable ambient gods at Kranky will be fixing that come February 4 when they will not only reissue Grouper’s breakthrough, but will release a second unheard full-length recorded at the same time dubbed The Man Who Died in His Boat. The label promises the set is “no mere odds and ends collection, but is at the least DDD’s equal in quality.”

Those are big words to live up to, but the first taste is quite promising to be sure. “Vital,” streaming below, finds Harris singing and strumming in what almost has to be an actual cavern, with every metallic slide of the fingers and every sustained coo bouncing off of wet walls on their way to the ear. 

Here’s Harris on the album’s inspiration, via statement: “When I was a teenager the wreckage of a sailboat washed up on the shore of Agate Beach. The remains of the vessel weren’t removed for several days. I walked down with my father to peer inside the boat cabin. Maps, coffee cups and clothing were strewn around inside. I remember looking only briefly, wilted by the feeling that I was violating some remnant of this man’s presence by witnessing the evidence of its failure. Later I read a story about him in the paper. It was impossible to know what had happened. The boat had never crashed or capsized. He had simply slipped off somehow, and the boat, like a riderless horse, eventually came back home.”

Grouper, The Man Who Died in His Boat track list:

1. “6”
2. “Vital”
3. “Cloud in Places”
4. “Being Her shadow”
5. “Cover the Long Way”
6. “Difference (voices)”
7. “Vanishing Point”
8. “The Man Who Died in His Boat”
9. “Towers”
10. “STS”
11. “Living Room”


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