Stars of the Lid
The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid
Kranky
2001
A-

the product of two guitarists from Austin, Texas; Stars of the Lid has been releasing some of the most beautiful and haunting ambient music of the past six years. Working in the studio to create the perfect drones, Stars of the Lid aren't a typical band that would be labeled electronic, necessarily. However, their work with tape loops, studio effects, and their uncompromising vision to a less spontaneous music fits directly in line with almost all artists featured on this site.


This record moves at a glacial pace over a two hour period and two discs. It certainly isn't for some listeners, whose attention span can't be bothered to focus for longer than five minutes. It contains five suites and assorted other tracks, however, the entire album feels like one whole piece; as though they were conducting their first symphony. Despite both members of the group being guitarists, there is nary a guitar sound found, in its original and distinctive form on the disc. Instead they have been effected to become sweeping strings. In contrast from their debut disc, 'Music For Nitrous Oxide,' the duo has went into the studio, instead of crafting the work on a four track tape recorder in their own home. They took advantage of the studio time to stretch this work out, to make it a clearer depiction of what they were attempting to do on their previous records.


For example, during the first suite, 'Requiem For Dying Mothers,' the first major modulation in the piece comes after ten minutes of slight builds and crescendo. Taking an almost right turn, while maintaining the core of the piece, a foreboding bass enters and a shimmering cello lock in what seems like an eternal counterpoint to each other. After this suite comes in the interlude piece, 'Down 3,' which features found sound vocal sample. It is the only sign of life on the album and it tellingly contains mostly unintelligible words, just out of earshot, just out of understanding (much like the music).


This type of music can be taken in two very different contexts. It could easily be used as background music, which by nature doesn't do the piece the justice that it deserves. In this context the majority of the music can be heard easily, but the changes and subtleties, which are so very important, are lost on the listener or are found only after they have occurred. In fact, my personal recommendation to the reader is to listen to this record at a louder volume and, if possible, with headphones. It makes the experience all the better, I've found. Small crackles, the individual entrances of instruments, and silence are all enhanced greatly and have enhanced my enjoyment of this record immensely.


The main thing here, though, that gets me straight to the core about this album is silence. It's nearly lyrical, unlike on other albums. The silence is part of the songs and every time one drone would cease, I would gently hum the beginning of the next drone, filling in the silence that was occurring on the record. And the slight changes. On each track there would be a change, of chords, of notes, of instrumentation. It is utterly simple and almost not notable on other records, however, on these songs the slightest changes it become epic, sweeping, monumental. Of course, I'm relatively new to this type of music, so people have probably been aping this stance for years. However, if you're new to the game, as well, I would highly recommend this record. This is the full fruition of their craft, in my opinion. There is beauty in every track.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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