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Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline

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Artist: Stars of the Lid

Album: And Their Refinement of the Decline

Label: Kranky

Review date: Apr. 5, 2007

In the absence of Labradford, gone some six years now, Stars of the Lid may likely be the closest thing to Kranky incarnate. The soft wisps of shifting light arrive dressed in minimalist garb, the graphics often invoking dreamtime expanses. Slow and sonorous, their drifting mists of treated sound sets the spectral standard for the label's varied mood-enhancing doses. An anomaly in the label's roster - an Out Hud here, a Deerhunter there - is ostensibly a deviation from the SOTL template. A potent concentrate, they are a veritable table of the Kranky elements.

True to the group's closed-eye vistas, the half-decade-plus that has elapsed since our last double-disc immersion into the Stars’ dust cloud, 2001's The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, scatter and fade like a pile of ashes from the first gentle gust. (Materialistically speaking, members Adam Witltzie and Brian McBride remained present through side projects - Aix em Klemm and The Dead Texan for Wiltzie - and solo releases - 2005's When the Detail Lost its Freedom from McBride - issued from their respective bases of Los Angeles and Brussels.) Again spanning two CDs, Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline is a return to the same blissful twilight as before, virtually unpaused.

Continuing to title their diffuse compositions with readymade descriptions - in 2001 it was "Gasfarming,” here we have "Articulate Silences" - SOTL process violoncello, horns and even tiny strands of human breath into celestial dial tones that drone idly and gradually dissolve, leaving a silvery residue. White space is mottled with shimmering blurs of brass, chiming piano, erased rhythms, smoldering glitch and acoustic tremble. Everything swirls like the swells and cluster of amplified grain on blown-up film. The few physical analogues, fleetingly glimpsed, always rhyme with the undulating tendrils of cirrus music - a dribbling faucet, the random tears of scarce traffic, ghostly radio voices. Silence is valued.

SOTL allow their timbres ample room to seep back into the concrete blankness from whence they came; there's even a swathe of pronounced nothing that closes the album. Unlike Toru Takemitsu's sculptural approach to "ma" wherein the Zen Buddhist precept of powerful quiet is molded by blocks of striking audio, Wiltzie and McBride take a more languorous approach. They do not shape absences with mallets and thwacks. SOTL's Refinement of the Decline traces the fluid contours of a void through diaphanous lines that reveal all of its miasmal abstraction.

By Bernardo Rondeau

Other Reviews of Stars of the Lid

The Tired Sounds Of Stars of the Lid

Music for Nitrous Oxide

Avec Laudenum

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