Stars of the Lid

Comprised of Adam Wilztie (from Austin) and Brian McBride (from Chicago), Stars of the Lid makes spacious, guitar-drone music that attains to the mysterious realm of “inner space.” As the group’s press states, its music is “neo-psychedelia, contemporary classical, ambient, minimalist, maximalist, drug enhancer, drug substitute” all in one. This double disc/three LP set features slow-moving, expansive, synth-like chords aided by the addition of strings, horn, piano and field recordings (whimpering dog, city bus, shuffling feet, “Dictaphone-preserved foreign lecture hall banter"), and the effect is one of time displacement bordering on the hypnotic.

From “Requiem for Dying Mothers (part 1-3)” to “Austin Texas Mental Hospital (parts 1 through 3)” and “Ballad of Distances part 1,” there is lengthy material here that, amazingly enough, doesn’t seem to drag on like some new-age massage music. This is more artfully done. Often sounding like the soundtrack to a David Lynch photography opening, the album succeeds by training the ear to search the euphoric wash of melodic structure for meaning while inducing a rhythmic state some might call meditative.

Though it may sound pretentious, the surreal atmospherics of SOTL may be approaching the aspirations of non-classical composers like Brian Eno or Folke Rabe—artists who, one reviewer wrote, pursue "a sacred music that makes the concept of god seem superfluous." Nevertheless, this is the kind of cerebral music most people either like or hate. For me, it served well as mood music while reading a book of intense short stories (see review below).