Release Date: Mar 13, 2012
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
If there was an award for saddest-slowest-quietest abstract songwriter of the last five years, Jesy Fortino (better known as Tiny Vipers) and Liz Harris (better known as Grouper) would have to duke it out. But there is no such prize. Instead, Fortino and Harris have formed some sort of sad-slow-quiet abstract Dream Team, named it Mirrorring, and put out a record.
Anyone familiar with either Grouper or Tiny Vipers’ Jesy Fortino should be able to build up a reasonably accurate mental picture of what a collaboration between the two would sound like. Hazy, droning backdrops? Check. Muffled acoustic guitars? Check. Delicate vocals submerged in the background? Check.
At what point do we distinguish sound art from song? Liz Harris and Jesy Fortino are musicians based in the Pacific Northwest who have each spent several records exploring this question. Harris, who records as Grouper, crafts ambient works that range from muted, narcotic guitar pop to more characteristic drone pieces, all haunted by vocals that can be alien or angelic. Fortino, meanwhile, leans toward black-hearted folk in her work as Tiny Vipers.
Developed through songwriting sessions in Portland, Mirrorring's debut—a collaboration between Liz Harris of Grouper and Jesy Forentino of Tiny Vipers—Foreign Body seeps the grainy, rain-drowsiness of the Pacific Northwestern homes of each (Portland for Harris, Seattle for Forentino). You can almost hear the eaves dripping beyond the album's dim cup o' tea atmospheres, which run from the more classical folk songwriting associated with Forentino and the narcotic dronescapes of Harris's work as Grouper. Both got their start within the orbit of the experimental noise and metal scene, though it's their shared talent for merging contemplative repetition with almost intangible, half-spun melodies that brings them together as Mirrorring.
With the recent solar disturbances and the renewed chance of aurorae in the hinterlands of northern most Britain, attention has been turned firmly skywards again. It seems almost prescient, as Liz 'Grouper' Harris has returned to the fold after last year’s A I A, a double album composed of forays into the cosmos and the subconscious. Harris’ new project, or rather joint project, is a collaboration with Jesy Fortino, otherwise known as Tiny Vipers.
Liz Harris unveiled the work of a lifetime with last year’s stunning and evocative A I A. Like most everything Grouper-related, the two-album set (Dream Loss and Alien Observer) was both an oblique add-on to Harris’ weblike musical history and an impressionistic excavation of ideas from a faintly perceptible future. Harris’ music is serene and severe, architectural, womb-like despite habitual sojourns into the depths of cold and distant space.
When I heard The Sight Below’s harrowing cover of Joy Division’s “New Dawn Fades” featuring the vocals of Jesy Fortino (Tiny Vipers), I immediately started dreaming of a more substantial collaboration between the two. While a rumored collaboration between the two and Benoît Pioulard has yet to surface (perhaps that material is what ended up as the somewhat similar, upcoming Pioulard/Rafael Anton Irisarri collaborative album recorded under the Orcas name), news of the Mirroring project which pairs Fortino with Grouper’s Liz Harris was at least if not more exciting. The swell of great ambient music over the last decade eventually put artists in a position of needing to invigorate the form, resulting in vocal turns on albums by big names like Eluvium and Loscil.