Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat album review

Beautiful and eerie, The Man Who Died in His Boat begins with impressionism, awash in a murky sea of tonal resonance and slowly unfolding beauty. The second track brings in lyrics, but the vocals are so muted and touched with a seeming bit of delay, to the point where the words are a little indiscernible. Of course, the unified feeling this whole things presents drives home the fact that the production style is just as important as the songwriting and tape loops are.

Grouper, a one-woman project from Portland, Oregon, is the accompaniment to a walk through the ethereal reaches of dream, music that is fragile and beautiful but slightly disturbing, not in a horrific way, but more so in an otherworldly one. The music ebbs and flows, each track seeming to melt into the next. The relationship between tracks implies an overarching sense of architecture, as the tension and release moves with the tracking at the beginning. When the first break between tracks finally occurs, it reinforces the preceding notions.

On a more directly musical level, the guitar writing is incredibly specific, and brings out latent aspects of the songwriting. There is a strong understanding of the effectiveness of picking rhythm as a means of establishing mood, to the point that the accompaniment rhythm does a great job of conveying that sense of other worldliness, as if the guitar itself were the portal.

Grouper is one of those musical experiences that words do no justice to. The subtle intricacies of this hushed and oddly beautiful music need to be experienced first hand, in a dimly lit room with eyes half closed.

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