Liz Harris's 12th album is a heart-melting anthology of songs written over the last 15 years. A mixture of 'Dragging A Dead Deer...' emotional rawness and 'AIA' -style tape-dubbed sonic fog, it's a timely reminder of why she's one of the crucial underground voices of the era.
When Harris's early Grouper material began to emerge thru the cracks in the wall of wyrd folk CDRs and hand-made cassette tapes, we could already sense it was something different. There was a bare quality to it that set it out of time: this was music that sounded as harmonious with Slowdive's melancholy shimmer as it did with the Olympia and Washington DIY set. 'Shade' is a career-spanning set that accurately charts her evolution thru the years, running a course that broaches ambient music, Laurel Canyon folk, grunge, dream pop, and everything in-between.
Her music is unified by its unique spirit and personified by Harris's voice - a ubiquitous element that's sometimes an elasticated, ghostly whisper and at others a spiraling coo. On opening track 'Followed the ocean', it's an assured driving force, but her powerful tones are reduced to glowing cinder beneath the burn of overdriven, tape-distorted noise. Words are present, but indecipherable - it's like hearing a song taped from radio and endlessly re-duplicated for heightened ghosting. The fog dissipates on 'Unclean mind', harking back to 'Heavy Water' with a grunge-y strum and angelic moans.
'Shade' is a good title, because the interplay between openness and insularity lies at the heart of the album. From track to track is sounds as if Harris is revealing herself and then retreating under a blanket of tape hiss. 'The way her hair falls' is so clean you could hear a pin drop, making out every nuance in Harris's voice. The biggest surprise is the album's closing track 'Kelso (Blue sky)', where her vocals are finally given a grand treatment, drenched in reverb but completely tangible. The result is a glimmering slice of lingering acid folk that sounds divorced from time and space.