We continue with recent 2013 albums in the wake of the Top 20 list published a few days ago with the new collaborative effort between Grouper’s Liz Harris and Jefre Cantu Ledesma with Event of Your Leaving. It’s a collaboration I was very excited to see happen; two somewhat disparate but relatively thematically similar artists coming together, but the result is somewhat lacking. Liz takes over a great deal and we dont see much of Ledesma’s abrasion here, but that’s not to say it’s a bad release, quite the opposite in fact.
Opener “In Stellar Orbit” is a hefty introduction to this album, clocking in at a mighty 13 minutes and dominating the runtime of this relatively compact release. Those already familiar with Grouper’s sound will perhaps be relatively unsurprised by this track; dreamy and simple repetitious guitars float unambitiously and lazily in the night sky, circling round and round in a hypnotic and endless fashion, serenaded by Liz’s hushed and smeared vocals and a secondary set of warped and clipped vocals shining and wavering uncomfortably above. There’s practically no hint of Ledesma anywhere here except in perhaps the deeply distorted vocal snippets that warble dangerously, but it’s a long piece and there’s room for maneuver; the closing minutes abandon the previous warmth and turn cold and harsh, with unforgiving drone piercing through a background fuzz that has seeped in surreptitiously. It’s the onset of the winter months in our annual rotation around our local star following the pleasant and easygoing haze of summer, the freezing of our hearts following the passing of a loved one that previously warmed it.
Ledesma kicks the life back into the album following the mournful end of the opener in “Blood Moon”, however, with a fiery but non-abrasive thicket of noisy guitar drone creating an entirely more turbulent piece. Banished are Grouper’s delicate and naively simplistic little melodies and in are the rich and empowered works Ledesma so lovingly crafts. Liz can still be heard serenading this boiling noise and Ledesma also seems to have some kind of even more distant overprint, and they’re beautiful additions to the textural onslaught. But the torrent dies away the same way as it did in the opener to be replaced by soft and cool reverbed drones right at the end as the full moon sets below the horizon and the night truly envelopes the land once more.
The title track creates a sandwich of sound as it returns to the seemingly Grouper lead style of sparse and reverb drenched guitar, minimal piano and barely there voices. There’s distinct sadness and sense of loss in this piece that reflect it’s namesake however, something that has not been present thus far. Liz sounds far away and not just literally but also emotionally, there’s a flatness and melancholy palpable through the quietly mourning music that has suddenly sprung up. This theme continues somewhat through into perhaps my favourite track of the album “In Held Company”, which sounds almost like it could have come out of AIA, but with a twist. The piano is brought right to the fore, promoted upon realisation of its potential as an instrument to induce sadness. All the extraneous detail and faint record crackle fall away only to be replaced by Liz alone, consoling herself in the empty darkness for a short while before the barely-there sequences of drone appear once more in the extremely minimalistic final throes of the track. It says so little but the void speaks far more than the music ever could.
It’s difficult to follow up the incredible peacefulness, even if it was somewhat unsettling, of the previous track, but closer “Blood Loss” does it somehow. The message is startlingly clear and totally at peace with the decision that life is just not worth living without you in it. Liz’s voice comes in the same gentle pulses as it always does but there’s something dark and menacing underlying the track, a deep and growing rumble that shakes the track at its very core, a distant yet immediately affecting disruption in the fabric of the music; the blood rushing out of our ears, right out of our body. It never really gets going because it doesn’t have anywhere to go, the entire thing just fades away into a crumbling, rumbling oblivion, a peaceful and uneventful movement into darkness and then…nothing.
It’s a strange release in that, as we progress through the album it’s difficult to see the bigger picture of what the pair are leading up to and trying to put across but once it comes down to the closing moments the leadup really is everything and the jigsaw slots into place at last. Suicide is not an instantaneous decision, it’s not something that just pops into your head and then happens, there’s a slow and drawn out process of realisation. In this case the turbulence and disarray proceeding loss is made known in “Blood Moon” and goes downhill from there as we sit wistfully in silence bringing back up old memories and trying to make sense of it all before we go ahead and slip away into the darkness ourselves in the closer. It’s a dark album, there isn’t much in the way of light listening, but it’s easygoing and relatively accessible, even if it has challenging themes. I like it a lot, but I think there could have been something else if Ledesma had been given the chance to craft some of his bigger and bolder pieces a little more.