Stars Of The Lid

Stars Of The Lid makes mood music that sighs and surges with tidal-like speed and power. Beatless and never hurried, it differs from much other electronic-based drone music in its delicate pauses and near-silences. These musical breaths, these spaces in between, draw your focus into spaces where not much actually happens. But in the best possible way.

artist:
Stars Of The Lid

country of origin:
USA

style(s):
Drone, ambient, environmental, neo-classical

decades active:
90's - 00's

essential releases:

  • The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid (2001, Kranky)
  • And Their Refinement Of The Decline (2007, Kranky)

Reviewed by Mike G

As the name implies, the gifted and much-lauded Texan duo Stars Of The Lid specialises in dreamy late night ambience; deep sounds from a place somewhere between consciousness and sleep. It should be pointed out that, through no fault of their own, the band has been the subject of some absurd over-praise by elements of the indie rock and "post-rock" music media, who have hyped them as a badge of esoteric cool since the release of the breakthrough album Tired Sounds in 2001. Reading the reviews you'd think Stars Of The Lid virtually invented drone ambience, and that the duo's music is the first and last word in the style. It betrays a breathtaking ignorance of hundreds of significant ambient and eclectic artists making drone music dating back to the 1960's. The duo deserves better, and it's safe to predict their beautiful music will endure anyway, long after the hype has passed.

At their considerable best, as demonstrated on the double-length albums  Tired Sounds (2001) and Their Refinement Of The Decline (2007) , members Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie make mood music that sighs and surges with tidal-like speed and power. Beatless and never hurried, it differs from much other electronic-based drone music in its delicate pauses and near-silences. These musical breaths, these spaces in between, draw your focus into spaces where not much actually happens. But in the best possible way.  The tracks are generally short in length but often melt into one another.

Texturally, the sounds of cellos, violins, guitars, piano and other instruments are heavily treated to create shimmering landscapes and touching, melancholy instrumentals. Odd titles abound: "A Song For Cubs", "Requiem For Dying Mothers", "Dopamine Clouds Over Craven Cottage". Stars Of The Lid's music inhabits a quasi-surreal universe, although it's too sparse and minimal to be called psychedelia. As for the duo's influences, they are rarely obvious. The pioneering recording treatments and studio techniques of Brian Eno have left a mark on the duo, as has the spacey neoclassical music of Arvo Part. Beyond that, the band's sources of inspiration remain hidden deep below the surface.

The duo's earlier, occasionally abrasive releases from the 90's spanning Music For Nitrous Oxide (1995) through to Avec Laudenum (1999) all have something to recommend them for fans, although listening to them now leaves this reviewer with a feeling of incompleteness compared to their two sprawling, low-key epics from the 2000's.  No more albums of new material have appeared from the band since 2007, though both McBride and Wiltzie continue to pursue active solo careers.

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