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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Grouper (with support from Glass Vaults and Pumice) at Happy

Although I missed most of their set, openers Glass Vaults sounded great, like a less arena-rock, more rhythm-focused version of Sigur Rós. But Pumice was the perfect opener for this particular show. Noise-maker that he is, he had a crazy bone-looking mouthpiece which he’d sing into at will. Crouched in a corner of the stage over what looked like a mini organ, he twiddled knobs and fucked with cassette tapes. Drone-y, noisy genius. There’s something incredibly endearing about watching someone so concentrated on their craft. This guy is the New Zealand underground, and is still under-appreciated. At the end of the show he acknowledged the old game of rugby that had been playing on the projector behind him: “This game changed my life”.

Grouper (Liz Harris) makes music that slowly unfurls, that washes over you so you only realise its effect once it’s over. Harris has a quiet confidence but appears immensely introverted. I feel like she’d be the slightly gothy kid in the corner of the class who was pretty quiet but highly observant. Her voice is in her music. Built on a foundation of loops, gentle guitar strums, reverb and tape fuzz, her aching voice coos indecipherably inside it all: a warm, comfortable womb to hide inside. It lulled many of the mostly-seated crowd into a gentle sleep. It was the kind of show where five hours could have passed, or twenty minutes.

Like her show in Auckland last year, she played nothing that was recognisably from her most widely known record, Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill (from 2008). It seems her spot on the third series of Skins (where the young lesbian girls hold hands through the cat flap) and her leftfield choice as Animal Collective’s opening act for their massive Merriweather tour of last year have spread her name a little wider, as the audience was at least triple what it was in Auckland’s Whammy bar last year. But it still had the same feeling: all of us huddled around a girl who hides her face beneath her hair, the music sneaks up on you; it seeps in by osmosis. Although the music can, at times, be a little gloomy and oppressive, it can equally be uplifting and deeply moving. It was the sort of show that sticks you with a feeling long after the music stops. The point of writing all this is: check her out, either via her recordings or next time she visits. She’s well worth it.

Photos by Rachel Brandon


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  1. Janice says:

    Well put. Was a beautiful show up in Auckland too! Way too short though

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