I’d hate to place too much emphasis on this sort of thing, but when an album this gauzy and shimmering starts with a song called “Disengaged” and ends with “We’ve All Gone to Sleep” it’s suggestive. Liz Harris has dialed down the washes of fuzz that cloaked her first two records as Grouper, and for the most part that’s a good choice. While Grouper’s sound was an intriguing one, it had also been taken about as far as possible, and hearing Harris’ voice and songs more clearly confirms that all the static was an aesthetic choice and not a disguise.
Let’s not pretend this is a pop album, though; Harris still seems to be singing from the other side of a long, echoing hall, and the fact that there are immediate hooks on “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping” and a few other tracks here doesn’t change the fact that this is still music that’s mostly about affect rather than (discernible) meaning. Which is probably enough to rule out plenty of listeners, and then a few more for whom Harris doesn’t go far enough; Picastro fans, for example, may now notice a tangential relationship, although Liz Hysen runs a far weirder ship. This Liz, however, can still produce a satisfying forty-five minutes or so of 4AD-styled mysterious, drifting amorphia (complete with acoustic guitars and pretty vocals), and that’s rare enough that Grouper are worth watching.