After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

In the depths of winter in 2017, Liz Harris—better known as the ambient folk musician Grouper—traveled to Murmansk, a post-industrial city in the Russian Arctic, for an artistic residency. After its own death is based on recordings created there and in another stint in the Azores, Portugal, and it’s the Arctic atmospheres that prevail. In these slow, lonely tracks—12, 16, even 21 minutes long—Harris’ multitracked vocal harmonies dissipate like foggy breath over drones so minimalist they evoke whiteout conditions. Gone are the acoustic guitar and piano of Grouper albums like Ruins; instead, overdriven synths buzz like flickering fluorescent bulbs at an abandoned border crossing. “After its own death: Side A” presents the core themes that will recur again and again—ethereal bell tones, growling bass, sounds of nature, and echoing footsteps—and the remainder of the album proceeds like a succession of half-forgotten memories, elements jumbling together and peeling away until all that’s left is a fuzzy outline of the deepest melancholy imaginable.

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