Geintothis burrows into Stars of the Lid’s abyss and comes out the other side blessed.
Stars of the Lid: And Their Refinement of the Decline – Album of the Week
Last week I mourned the loss of a truly fine music website. Within it was one of the most fascinating pieces of music journalism in years – don’t believe me – go see how it shaped the sound of a great band’s new record, inspired Elbow‘s Guy Garvey to thank the writer for his insights and how it has now been entered into Da CapoÃ¢ÂÂs Best Music Writing series.
Nick Southall‘s piece, Imperfect Sound Forever, dealt primarily in how compression of sound was ruining our music – and how we listen. How nuances are missed in a loudness war. A world were Keane‘s Hopes and Fears is produced way, way louder than Nirvana‘s Nevermind in order to merely maximise commercial gain and radio play. How wrong is that?
In the piece, Southall touches upon how the vast majority of people are no longer really listening to music, they have music on to fill the void while they do something else, it doesn’t engage the listener, quite the opposite it – the listener is disengaged from music.
One band who are clearly in touch, albeit unknowingly, with Southall’s argument are Stars of the Lid, an ambient duo from LA.
Dealing in colours that you ‘see’ when your eyes are shut, SotL appear entirely preoccupied with loudness – or the lack of it and filling a void which should, or has to be connected with. This is music mirroring Brian Eno‘s finest – one which is almost weightless, completely beatless, droning and symphonic and which fills the entire room – and yet forever seems to consist of nothingness.
Much of And Their Refinement of the Decline is piano or brass led – the odd, almost transparent, flugelhorn or violin sometimes peer out of the mist begging you to strain to hear it – and while its often fluid and ethereal it is completely alive; much more dazzling and compelling than 99% of rock records released in 2007.
So while you drift in and out, you are always listening intently.
At their most apparent, the heavy-fingering of the piano on Humectez La Mouture they share a likeness to Talk Talk, labradford or even Sigur Ros at their most elemental.
At their most extreme – Dopamine Clouds Over Craven Cottage – they share a droning hum which is as light and as white as Sunn O))) are as dark and unforgivingly black.
And with titles like December Hunting For Vegetarian Fuckface you know there’s great humour at their beating heart.
What SotL have done is create a neo-classical work which is as much a triumph of atmosphere as it is of musical majesty – all without the need to whack the levels up; for as Southall says: ‘If you want to listen to something loud, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a simple method – turn it up.’
For fans of: Drone, Jam, David Lynch.
Sunburned Hand Of Man: Fire Escape
Smalltown Super Sound
This is Mr Cool’s definitive band to name drop this week.
Mr Cool occupies a small space but takes up a lot of room. With his grey-tinted hair, made to measure suits and suede loafers, this week he’s been professing to anyone that’ll listen about the joys of Keiran Hebdon‘s latest production dabblings with psyche-mutant-dance oddballs SHotM.
He’ll tell you how their vast blancmange of angular tribal wigouts on Nice Butterfly Mask is Can reincarnate. He’ll swoon over the Neu! comparisons on the motorik Fire Escape.
He’ll dribble superlatives over the 15-minute Acid Mother’s freakout on The Wind Has Ears and he’ll wax lyrical over Manitoba tribal din on The Parakeet Beat.
What he’ll forget to mention is that none of it matches up to those it aspires to be; coming off more like a messy Black Dice racket. Which isn’t to say its bad – it certainly isn’t – it just isn’t as revolutionary as Mr Cool would have you believe.
Never trust men with grey-tinted hair.
For fans of: Four Tet, space-moog, cubism.
Richard Youngs: Autumn Response
Richard Youngs thinks he’s super-clever by dressing up his sappy folk with multi-layered vocals which jump out of nowhere, over-lapping and weaving at irregular intervals.
Unfortunately, he’s wrong. His vocals are plain and if anything they merely distract from a set of tracks which if were passed onto you by an unsigned act from Hull you’d barely give the time of day.
I gave this a dozen listens – it ruined my week.
For fans of: Rugs, organised religion, yawning.
Aaah smell the sounds of the 60s! Caribou’s Daniel V. Snaith has pretty much dicked on every base for years – kraut, electronica, pop, psychedelia, you name it he’s gobbled it, and now he’s transformed into a giant DJ Shadow-type masquerading as Austin Powers minus the shitty jokes.
Virtually every track of Andorra could soundtrack a Carnaby Street shopping spree or swinging hipsters boudoir drowning in kaleidoscopic beams of light flickering off a semi-naked Twiggy.
If he and Candie Payne got together they could score and star in their own remake of the Avengers – and it would be fucking shagtastic baby!
For fans of: The Zombies.
Six Organs Of Admittance: Shelter From The Ash
Earlier this year Quentin Tarantino told Liverpool of how the final scene in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly was his favourite of all time – and how Ennio Morricone‘s score completed its magnificence.
Well, if there’s an heir to his throne it’s surely Six Organs mainman Ben Chasny. Each track of Shelter… would fit seamlessly into that most iconic of last stands. You can not only hear the beads of sweat trickling down the weathered brows of the gunslingers, but you can taste its salty residue. You can see the grey, dirty plumes of smoke from the half chewed cigars nestled in the corner of chapped lips. And you can sense the malignant intensity piercing from those eyes trained on their enemy.
Stick Goddess of Atonement on and listen to the finger-picking polysyllables, hear the air undulating between the strings before an electric gust brings everything to a violent end.
Dig the savage climax of Final Way; seven minutes of broody folk pass before the bloody finale.
Chasny’s world of dustbowls and vacuous wildernesses are filled with little more than gin-soaked drunks, stray horses, ragged prairie dogs with drooping tongues and saloons filled with nothing but dust. But his guitar bursts spawn ghostly gunfights and mini-massacres.
Alone With The Alone is the Sergio Leone long camera shot never realised while Coming To Get You is the crimson-splattered walls of a Sam Peckinpah shootout set to blood-drenched postrock.
Quick, someone phone Clint.
For fans of: Eli Wallach.