Stars of the Lid: The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid

Jason Thompson

It tires you out, makes you feel like you just awakened from either a week-long nap or a coma, as you tend to lose track of time when attempting to sit through it all.

Stars of the Lid

The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2001-10-08

I waited for something to happen. I sat there and waited patiently. I mean, if you're going to have a two CD/three LP set, something's gotta happen in there. I remember I did a few things during that time. The crossword puzzle, the laundry, made dinner. My two friends Jane Craughl and Butterfly Decal (she claims the moniker is more Warholian than something that escaped from the '70s; I know what it actually refers to) and sat around and talked. They listened, too.

"What's that?" asked Jane.

"Ah. It's this group called Stars of the Lid. I've been listening to this stuff all day," I replied.

"Sounds kinda . . . well, not even weird, even. Just kinda . . . there, I guess," added Butterfly.

I nodded. "Yeah, it's kind of interesting. But I almost wish it were a more Nurse With Wound kind of thing if they're gonna just be doing that sort of playing around."

We sat and listened some more. Eventually, Jane and Butterfly had to go, leaving me to my dinner and the rest of the album. I'm still pondering what it was I listened to. Stars of the Lid seem to like electronic things. They like far away sounding things, too. The first two tracks here, "Requiem for Dying Mothers, parts 1 and 2" ooze out of the speakers slower than a snail in molasses. There are some harmonics plucked on a gutiar, a violin, and some kind of strange droning that may or may not be backwards providing the main background in the first part. In part 2, it's a bit more of the same. Slow, brooding synth sounds weaving in and out with a cello and violin. It's an idea for a tune, though nothing really forms in either track, the both of which take approximately 14 minutes to listen to.

After that is "down 3" that features some far away piano notes being plunked away (slowly again) somewhere in the far off corners of some freaky abandoned house. Wait, that's my interpretation, the house . . . strange. The piano is mixed in with what sounds like bits of a phone conversation, but it's so low in the mix that it's rather hard to tell. In the middle, there's a car beeping and then some warm synth tones again. I'm assuming it's a synth -- everything on this album is so vague that you can't quite fully grasp what the sounds may or may not be.

"Austin Texas Mental Hospital parts 1- 3" are next. Opening with some more droning strings and synths, or maybe synth strings in the first part, no wait, make that the second part as well (together, these two formless pieces clock in at nearly 20 minutes), part 3 concludes the piece with about six minutes of what sounds like wine glasses being played mixed with the occasional . . . synth burp or wind chime, or, jeez . . . I seriously still don't know after all this time. It's all so very just barely there. I do know that the first disc closes with "Broken Harbors parts 1-3" which again mainly features a warm sounding synth pad upon which various notes are struck and slowly pushed up in volume.

So where does the second disc take us? Well, with fewer extended pieces, I was hoping for a wider range of sounds, but this is not the case. Right off the bat, "Mullholland" is another droning synth piece that goes nowhere in about seven minutes. You may think I'm cheating the review here, but I'm honestly not. So many of the tunes here are nothing but plodding excursions into a small amount of notes played on a warm sounding synth for far longer than need be.

So plays out most of the second disc in the same way. "Ballad of Distances parts 1 and 2" sound like the ambient type of music that formed most of the soundtrack to Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape. I should know; I have that album. The second part features some more backwards loops (when Stars of the Lid run out of droning ideas, they usually just play their tapes backwards) that are as formless as anything else that has happened on this album. The whole work concludes with "A love song (for cubs) parts 1-3". You guessed it. More droning. Tip to the band: you don't have to constantly take one boring idea and divide it up into three extended sections. Three minutes of any of these "songs" is enough.

The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid is an apt title. It tires you out, makes you feel like you just awakened from either a week-long nap or a coma, as you tend to lose track of time when attempting to sit through it all. I mentioned the great Nurse With Wound earlier. I do wish this album was more along the lines of NWW's many excursions that often take random sounds, found noises and whatnot and create compelling works that beg to be be heard again and again. Such is not the case here. This stuff is beyond ambient. This is more like . . . the most boring album I've ever heard in my life, and I like a lot of weird stuff that my friends usually can't fathom. But this one could have easily been completed in two five-minute songs. The fact that it was spread over two discs is mind boggling. So save your sanity and let Stars of the Lid put themselves to sleep.






Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pay Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.