Sal Klita Blogger | Muzik impressions

Sal Klita Blogger

Tuesday, January 20

Softly druggy haze...STARS OF THE LID - Music For Nitrous Oxide

"Tape Hiss Makes Me Happy" 

Before there were a million 'drone' records, before every other person had their own cd-r drone music label, before anyone with a computer and a cd burner had their own 'drone project', and well before all it took was holding down a few keys on a keyboard or leaning a guitar against an amplifier to become an underground sensation, there was Stars Of The Lid. Armed with little more than a couple guitars, some effects and a four track, the duo of Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie were capable of crafting incredibly lush and expansive dronescapes unlike anything we'd ever heard. 

Quietly channeling the druggy drift of Spacemen 3, the blissful ambience of Brian Eno and the processed guitar based landscapes of post-Loop project Main, the duo conjured up long sprawling expanses of near static guitar drift, crumbling distortion and shimmering feedback sculpted into billowing stretches of soft swirling sound. Sites set high, even their early works aspired to the modern minimalism they would eventually master, but well before the group enlisted extra players and string sections and incorporated flutes and pianos and began crafting multi movement minimal epics, equal parts Arvo Part and Morton Feldman, the band's sound was much more raw and immediate, much more lo-fi, but somehow managing to sound lush at the same time, music so perfectly crafted it seemed to transcend its source. A gorgeous, living organic world of sound, evocative and cinematic, dark and brooding, soft and utterly beautiful.

Originally released way back in 1995, Music For Nitrous Oxide was the very first Stars Of The Lid release, and it's sound can be summed up by one of the song titles: "Tape Hiss Makes Me Happy". Apparently, so did strange samples, bizarre snippets of dialogue, and most importantly, thick smears of distorted guitar. Total bedroom ambient bliss, but light on the 'ambient', the music on Nitrous Oxide is anything but ambient, it moves and flows and buzzes and howls, the sound is not smooth, it's raw and rough, distorted and warped, the production low on fidelity, but heavy on hazy, gauzy, washed out shimmer. This is almost like the sound of old SUNNO))) records, with all the distortion removed. Slow motion riffage, unfurling lazily into thick tendrils of dark melody, textures and timbres stretched and smeared and smoothed and blurred, tape hiss everywhere, but instead of an impediment, the hiss is alive, swirling and undulating, another layer of warm whir, giving the sounds more texture and more grit. There is percussion, but it sounds like someone tapping on the body of the guitar, then slathering it in reverb and delay. 

The sounds of trains and cars driving by surface here and there, as do bursts of radio and short wave interference, but the core of all these pieces is delicately and perfectly arranged bits of guitar, whether they be looped streaks of whispery high end, or deep rumbling slabs of crumbling low end, the guitars are looped and repeated and all tangled up with other complimentary loops, allowed to spread out, to expand, to fill up the speakers and overflow, or to trickle out like a summer stream. 

The sound shifts from hushed whisper to thick dense almost chaotic swirl, often in the same song. Deep bell like tones drift in wide open expanses of dreamily dramatic soft focus buzz, thick, super distorted guitar buzz is wound around a simple barely there drum beat, cymbals sizzle in a thick roiling black sea of disembodied and fragmented riffage, while elsewhere rubbery low end warbles beneath strange creaks and scrapes, swallowed whole by the occasional wash of blurred distorted buzz, and finally the sound of rainfall surrounds deep lush rumbling chords as they create an almost choral drone for perhaps one of the most moving pieces of drone music ever, certainly an impossibly perfect way to end the record.

Captivating, mesmerizing, one minute soft and shimmery, the next dense and heavy, but always perfect, always personal and intimate, always mysterious and utterly magical. The name Stars Of The Lid comes from the strange images you see when you close your eyes, electrical impulses, mysterious shapes and textures, and never has a name so perfectly reflected the sound of the band so named, and rarely, has band so perfectly represented something so ineffable in sound. Practically perfect. And absolutely essential. By Aquarius records