Like grains in the sand, Grouper rests among a bank of being trapped within a large, nearly overwhelming crowd. Somehow while surrounded, the isolative factor becomes more clear and pressing as their 12th studio record, Shade becomes overwhelming in its simplicity.
Liz Harris is charming behind the instrumentation and vocals which never packs more than a few layers into the frame. Her narrations are gentle, almost being kissed by angels while the audience strikes a tone of a mother lulling an infant; separation becoming the theme of her tone.
When the first introductory track, “Followed The Ocean” uses rough ambiance of white noise and warping vocals as if they were being ripped directly from the phonograph; Grouper is less calming and more frightening. The hair raises on the neck like a ghost has touched the audience one by one.
As the general uneasiness fades, Harris immediately makes her presence known less as the apparition, and more as the soft hands to lead. The guitar work is simple but matches her vocals in a way that borders to become a folk love story, but Grouper almost always has an underlying motion of foreboding grasp as well.
With the later track “Pale Interior,” the quicker strumming is instead traded for finer plucks on the strings. Now also less than a staccato fashion, Harris uses “Pale Interior” to march more towards this lifeless room. As a notion of redeeming emotion, Grouper on Shade focuses less on the lyricism and more on the tones within her voice.
For such soft vocalization, her words are nearly impossible to make out without intense listening. She makes sure to vibrate at this adequately low frequency that becomes nearly hypnotizing to the audience.
Especially present on “Present,” Grouper is perfect for the last moments on Earth. Tuned low with Harris’ vocals becoming the soprano of the production, “Promise” makes sense to the senseless. As nighttime and chunks of feedback continue to hum underneath the recording, her intertwined playing is nearly nothing in the ears. She is so quiet that the feedback begins to take over and let “Promise” fade back into the ocean of sound that she created from the start.
Over nine tracks and practically exactly 35 minutes, Harris on Shade is beautiful but never overpowers the mix and in fact, takes steps to reduce her presence even though it is a solo exhibition.
While the sand gets reduced back into the water on the clean banks, the sense of muddied notions comes instead from the audience’s own thoughts and not directly from Harris. Tides can push and pull, but Shade stands as if it was an immovable castle built upon that smooth and nearly glacial foundation.
Listen/Watch Here – Youtube
Directed By: Andre Uncut
Listen Here – Spotify
“A playlist of tracks that were featured on MattsMusicMine.com from the week of October 18th – 24th. From Reviews to Streams, never miss a track with these playlists that are uploaded every single Sunday till I drop dead.”
Featuring: Yandere Chainsaw Regurgitation Factory, The Silver, Roc Marciano, Nicholas Craven, Mac Miller, Cat Soup, Bones, Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jimmy Jones, Algara, The Alchemist, Zelooperz, Laurence Guy, Lil Ugly Mane, David Bowie, Fort Romeau, Ben LaMar Gay, Wiki, Zack Fox, Veilburner
Track List: Walls Of Flesh, Deathstruction, Breathe, 1000 Mile Stare, Here We Go, CurseOfWalls, Alone In Hell, Oh Boy, Dead Or Alive, Todo Me Da Igual, Wildstyle, Your Good Times Are Here, Clapping Seal, Cursor, Survive, Ramona, Oh Great Be The Lake, Wik Da God, Boy I’m On Yo Ass, Nocturnal Gold
In his newest record VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN, Lil Ugly Mane is less of the intimidating poet that most introductions were met through. Instead, Travis Miller or Lil Ugly Mane is able to sit on a throne of frankly and often-times, gorgeous segments of production.
His earlier projects like the instrumental juggernauts THREE SIDED TAPE sagas always had moments of indie and more sung tracks, but VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN takes those personal favorites and expands on them.
Opening with “bird enemy car,” Lil Ugly Mane continues to ask almost existentially, “Who Are You? Who Are You? Who Are You?” under the guise of an animatronic female vocal set. As the instrumentation builds, the presentation is like a slow Ken Burns-style draw of the entire universe through time. It follows the dawn of the Ice Age, into the Dark Ages, then Middle Ages, times of enlightenment, all the way to Man’s ruin.
As the following track “with iron & bleach & accidents” shuffles into the frame, the instrumentation is a child’s carousel that is bent in a sadistic way. Lil Ugly Mane has lines that describe, “Hiding in the panels of amnesia,” or “People under dynamited buildings take a break from smoldering and smile.” Lil Ugly Mane’s writing always has this undertone of mud to the mix, VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN is still similar in that way.
Pieces that follow like “cold in here” is less vapid and more about challenging his non-loyal fanbase to adapt into this less of a rap-focused release. For fans that have trampled through his BandCamp page previously, VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN quickly becomes a record that not only shows progression to his sound but shows adaptability to the sonic capabilities.
Miller or Lil Ugly Mane might not be the most reliable narrator through his works, but on VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN, he becomes engaged in ways that weren’t really possible before.
Taking the track “headboard” which was one of the technical singles of the record or “clapping seal,” those two tracks are drastically different in instrumentation but Miller’s delivery checks the room to see if they are still paying attention. Even if Lil Ugly Mane is alone in that room, he creates just for the sake of creating.
In doing so, VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN becomes this beautiful collection of sound that is not so distant from Lil Ugly Mane’s incredibly sporadic career. However, to compare MISTA THUG ISOLATION to VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN, the two projects couldn’t be more different. But somehow in doing so, the most positive talking point about the record is just how immaculately contrasting it is.
Listen Here – BandCamp
Full Release On: November 19th, 2021