As Grouper, Liz Harris has created a distinct and engrossing body of work across several albums and singles incorporating drone, ambient and folk. “Felt This Way/Dying All The Time” is the first release from Helen, her new band with Scott Simmons and Jed Bindeman, and the two tracks here build on elements of the sound palette from 2008’s “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill” and last year’s “The Man Who Died in His Boat”. Those two albums (the latter being an accompanying piece of sorts – a collection of tracks recorded at the same time as the former) are perhaps Harris’ most immediate and overtly pop long players, less experimental and with a greater focus on vocal melodies underpinned by the strumming of guitar.
The guitars on this release are quite unlike those found on those two albums and Grouper’s other solo releases – loud and fast, they are accompanied by assertive drumming and cloaked in harsh reverb. Tying the music back to “The Man Who Died In His Boat” and “Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill”, though, is Harris’ singing – buried deep amidst the aggressive drums and guitar. There is a crucial difference between the delivery on each of the two songs here – “Dying All the Time” is imbued with the more familiar haunted, plaintive side of Harris. By contrast “Felt This Way” has a lighter mood buried beneath the fuzzy sonics – somewhat reminiscent of 90s indie-pop acts. Both, however, have the twisted infectiousness that have been the feature of Grouper songs which have similarly toyed with pop structures.
If the deeply evocative take on shoegaze, rock and pop on this single is a prelude to more material from Helen, then that is a very exciting prospect.