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The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid

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Album Review

Having always made records that exist at the margins of descriptive language, this project by Austin, Texas' most spaced-out duo, Stars of the Lid, is their most ambitious to date, featuring 11 tracks parceled over two CDs (or three LPs), four of which are multi-part suites. Taking a step further down the road they embarked upon with Avec Laudanum, the duo have expanded the pure space and black hole vistas they offered on Music for Nitrous Oxide and The Ballasted Orchestra to embrace small melodic fragments that seemingly endlessly repeat through minimally varying textures. The effect can either be soothing ("Requiem for Dying Mothers"), hypnotic ("Broken Harbors"), or unsettling ("Austin Texas Mental Hospital"). The trademark analogue guitar/tape cut ups are ever present; what would normally be considered the sound of a guitar is nowhere in aural earshot. Traces of piano, strings, and even horns are layered into the mix, primarily on the second disc on "Mulholland," "Fac 21" (not a reference to an obscure record on the legendary Factory label, but a classroom on the University of Texas campus where Radio, Television and Film classes were taught), and "Piano Aquieu." The final two suits, "Ballad of Distances" and "A Lovesong (For Cubs)," are based on single and double-note piano intros that are heavily treated and meet minimal accompaniment by strings shimmering in the background in haunting melodies and droning ambient backdrops. There is a progression in all the music here, but it is so subtle, so quiet and un-intrusive, the listener would have to pay very careful attention to everything that is happening. More realistic, however, is for those who take pleasure in SOTL's music and inner space explorations — for this truly is a music of the inner terrain — to offer themselves little distraction other than a comfortable chair or resting place in order to let this music enter at will, naturally and expand until it takes you over the edge into something resembling sleep, but far more delicious. Despite its more songlike structures, More Tired Songs is actually for those who are tired of songs, period, and are looking for something less, something unspeakably beautiful and determinedly unmentionable in its vast and luxuriant erasure from any musical category.

Biography

Formed: Austin, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Ambient drone duo Stars of the Lid was formed in Austin, TX, by guitarists Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie, the latter also a member of Windsor for the Derby as well as the longtime soundman for Bedhead. Debuting in 1994 with Music for Nitrous Oxide, the duo returned the following year with Gravitational Pull vs. the Desire for an Aquatic Life; signing to Kranky, Stars of the Lid next resurfaced in 1997 with the epic The Ballasted Orchestra. 1998's Per Aspera Ad Astra, a collaboration with painter...
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The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, Stars of the Lid
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