Along with Eluvium, Stars of the Lid (Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie) have produced the best consistently good warm ambient music of the current generation. Their music is based on manipulating a multitude of soft organic sounds in equally many ways. Brian Eno's much-cited recommendation for the ambient genre suggested it should be as ignorable as it is interesting, and they balance these qualities as delicately as anyone I've heard. With their music proceeding at a patiently slow pace, with melodies only existing as little repeated fragments, Stars of the Lid are easy to enjoy semi-consciously. But it's only minimal on the surface, and listening closely exposes their admirably subtle sense of timing, and allows you to luxuriate in their lovingly-shaped string, guitar, piano and other samples. They avoid synthesizers, instead using electronics to shape "real" acoustic instrument sounds. This is a key ingredient in their success at remaining serious sound artists rather than vacuous chill-out or space-music proponents.
Stars of the Lid must be one of the very few bands for whom the clichéd interview question "where did your name come from?" is actually helpful in appreciating their music. The lid is the eyelid, and the stars feature on the screen you see with closed eyes. But the same can't always be said of their song titles, e.g. the last track of this!
Apart from the three albums featured below, also recommended are Adam Wiltzie's The Dead Texan multimedia project (a good accessible introduction to their sound) and Brian McBride's dreamy solo album.
Stars of the Lid - Gravitational Pull Vs. The Desire For an Aquatic Life (1996)
Stars of the Lid's second album asserted their status as current masters of minimal ambient texture. Here they create beds of slowly-shifting drones from guitars and strings processed into oblivion. The result is absorbing, while subtle enough to allow itself to drift in and out of perception. ...Read more
Stars of the Lid - The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid (2001)
Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride's most definitive work is this ambitious double album of warm ambient music. While the title and genre suggests functional sleep-inducement, putting this album on in the background misses the delights of its careful and subtle construction. With real-instrument samples smoothed beyond recognition, they explore the possibilities of sound textures, slow pacing and timing....Read more
Stars of the Lid - Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline (2007)
With this equally monumental follow-up to their revered "Tired Sounds" album I think I've worked out how Stars of the Lid distinguish themselves from other ambient artists. They're catchy. No, really. OK, you don't go "You remember that bit where a sample of 4 cellos is crossfaded with white noise for 4.6 seconds?", but you recognise it every time. Each of the album's eighteen pieces does something different, and memorable in its own way...Read more