It's a Sunday night and I'm a ball of stress for some reason or the other. As sometimes happens, I've inundated myself with music all weekend, and instead of feeling refreshed, it all has me feeling more than a bit worn out. Suddenly, I realize that I have to return a movie back to the local store in the next 30 minutes, lest I suffer the dreaded late fee. I know that it's zero degrees outside, with a negative wind-chill, but instead of driving, I put on a thick jacket, gloves, and headphones with Avec Laudenum playing. By the time I return home, the exposed skin on my face is cold, but I've returned to a more serene state and I owe it to Stars Of The Lid.
If that sounds a bit flowery, let it first be known that it's a true story. Instead of relying on catchy melodies and finely-tuned programming, SOTL build up a world of sound by dissolving things down to their most pure forms. On my walk to the store that night, my breath billowed out thick icy clouds, and while I wouldn't call Avec Laudenum 'cold music,' I would say that it makes one feel more at home in such an atmosphere.
Although it was released a couple years ago on the Sub Rosa label in Belgium, this shorter release (especially compared to their massive 2CD release The Tired Sound Of) is very similar to that effort, but on a slightly smaller scale. Over the course of 5 tracks, and 3 songs, the album progresses from closer to their earlier style to the one that they are currently occupying. It's an excellent little bridge album for those who have heard their earlier work, and it's a perfect addition to the collection of those who have just recently discovered them.
The album opens with the amazing, three-part "Atomium," and never looks back from there. Part one of the track opens with a subtle melody that sounds like a long forgotten, submerged horn of some sort before shifting into overlapping layers of higher-end feedback and low-end drones. The middle section drifts with some of the same sorts of tones that layered so nicely on The Tired Sound Of, before the final section takes a slightly darker feel as thick low-end frequencies mingle with slowed backwards melodies of some sort. The album-closing track of "I Will Surround You," is one of their best to date, slowly shifting those glacial layers of tone while a barely-audible pulse breathes through during the quiet moments.
Who am I kidding? If you've ever heard Stars Of The Lid, you'll also know that it's pretty difficult to describe them without simply wanting to talk about what their music evokes. Their sound is so pure and slowly evolving that most people would simply call it boring, but I want to use words like majestic and narcotic and enveloping to describe it. I want to lay on my back outside and simply stare at the night sky while listening to them. I want to bundle up and brave the cold night while hearing them, and I want to forget that music has to be what most consider musical. Sometimes it can simply be sound, and that's just fine.