Grouper, a moniker of Liz Harris, dropped by The Opera House in Brooklyn for a three night residency to help welcome back the prestigious venue.
Located in South Williamsburg, the newly reopened Opera House was a pristine setting for Liz Harris to perform as Grouper and unleash her breathtaking soundscapes to an audience of devoted listeners. As one of the most prominent ambient musicians of her era. Harris has become a sincerely loved and critically acclaimed artist that can strike between swelling charges of enthralling guitar and desolate piano, each recalling wide ranges of emotions from her listeners. On a darkly lit stage, a lone table was adorned with boards and a lone guitar and it was situated in front of a large screen. To the sides were glowing blue lights and behind the screen was a brick wall, highlighted in an exaggerated red. As Liz took to the stage, she remained in shadows, her face hidden despite her constant brushback of her hair. Meticulously she tweaked the knobs in front of her as she slowly brought her ambient pieces to life. Opening with "Vanishing Point," the screen behind her began to flash projections of art overlaid on top of each other as hands painted circles through scratched frames. The visuals behind her would range from these art pieces to streams of water, tides on sand, and budding tree blossoms throughout the night, each range of imagery matching to the songs Harris slowly conjured up on stage. She picked up the guitar to release heavy waves of surging, ambient feedback that coupled with tape hiss and droning walls of static. The lush, deep tones creating waves throughout the hall of her deeply reverberating sound waves. "I'm Clean Now" was a deeply moving moment that propelled the night to new heights of brilliance and exposed the compelling and captivating powers that Grouper can possess. However, as the opening ripples of "Headache" began to roll over the crowd, it became an utterly transfixing moment, one where you could almost feel yourself levitating to the extremely ethereal vibes that Liz was commanding over the crowd. A near out of body experience, it felt transcendent and apparent that nearly everyone else in attendance was under a similar spell as gasps of gratitude roared out once the song was finished. Grouper also creates musical worlds that can feel welcoming, but also isolating at times, the spare, lone instrumentation while beautiful and engulfing also feels incredibly stark. Yet, at their heights, the blissed out sentiments and warm melodies can feel like an embrace and being able to see this magic in such a setting with a crowd mesmerized by the event in front of them is a spectacle in and of itself. On the way out, I overheard several people speak about those around them openly weeping or bursting into tears at moments throughout the show, the emotional force of the music becoming overwhelming to the point where sobbing becomes just another part of the show.
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