Nivhek - After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Nivhek - After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

by Tim Sentz Rating:9 Release Date:2019-02-08
Nivhek - After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house
Nivhek - After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

Liz Harris writes masterpieces for herself to consume. She’s never been overly concerned with how peers and fans consume her work, or how they respond to it. Over the course of the last decade or so since she’s been weaving ethereal ambient dream pop, she’s done minimal touring, minimal interviewing, minimal everything. Everything about Harris seems minimal on the surface. When she’s Grouper, her most notable project (of many), there are hints at all her influences, and she manages to cram so much feeling and sound into short bursts – like on 2018’s underrated Grid of Points.

Surprise releasing her newest effort under the new moniker of Nivhek, Harris expands her own palette.  While Grid of Points was viewed as a bare-bones Grouper record – brisk and light – After its own death / walking in a spiral towards the house is anything but. Broken down into 4 halves: Side A & B of After its own death, and Side C & D of Walking in a spiral towards the house, but with each half containing multiple “songs,” this new iteration of Harris is much bolder than we’ve come to expect from her.

Opening with “Cloudmouth,” its beginnings seem like a Harris hallmark, but then halfway through it becomes the Blade Runner soundtrack almost, with this dense synth that conjures malevolent thoughts, something Harris isn’t shy to elaborate on through the massive soundscapes she’s crafted. All of these songs grouped together to segue seamlessly from feeling to feeling isn’t unheard of, but it works to Harris’ advantage. It forces the listener to engage each individual concept: from the handbells of “Night-walking” to the chimes of “Funeral song” that close out Side A of After its own death, Harris has her grip on us.

Her work has never been truly digestible for the masses, outside of that one-off shoegaze band Helen’s 2015 album The Original Faces (which is pretty damn great). Harris has ridden a very fine line between the accessible and the background noise section, but with a song like “Crying Jar” she transports us to a very dark realm, that’s neither accessible nor background noise. It’s one of the more chaotic compositions she’s given us. Thick reverb punctuates the atmosphere of After its own death’s themes. The chimes heard throughout the album are traditional Grouper sounds, but here they carry a weightier purpose, being the string that connects the whole thing.

While the album is a mostly instrumental affair, it continues Liz Harris’ winning streak. She continues to be a daring storyteller, one that doesn’t require words to define elements. If this is a response to the criticism she received for Grid of Points short run time (a criticism not given other short albums from 2018 as harshly), then it’s a massive one. But I can’t see Harris caring about her detractors much, otherwise, pieces of bliss like this record and Ruins wouldn’t exist.

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