This is a massive album. Double disc, two hours long exactly. A little self-indulgent maybe? I disagree. The vision of this record necessitates such a running time. The whole thing seems cyclical, a story in itself, a watershed of colour and emotion, although there are no words. Picture the opening of a glorious new day. (Not difficult given the weather recently) The sun rises across vast plains of untouched greenery. The flowers are in full bloom; animals crawl lethargically from their burrows and nests, beginning the day with zeal and purpose. The air glows, iridescent in the morning ambience, there is life, life in abundance all around, nature working harmoniously, untouched by human interference. With a soothing backdrop of slow, optimistic fanfares of shimmering guitar and horns, so begins the album in a languid and captivating manner. Stars of the Lid’s previous works often were longer ambient escapades in the vein of Brian Eno et al; here they appear to owe much to a variety of influences: Talk Talk’s final works, the minimalist classical music of Eric Satie, Edvard Grieg’s Morning Mood, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s gentler soundscapes. I tend to find many of their earlier albums occasionally lacking in purpose and vision: not so here. I can sense each note, each soundscape, each choice of timbre is there for a reason, each song creates a new picture, takes us on a journey. Every time.
So you wake up, have a look outside at the glorious day ahead. Nature is thriving in all its fullness. Maybe you’re a little heartbroken? There’s a bit of that in there too. Perhaps you’re grieving the loss of a loved one? Maybe you’re getting married, moving away from home, and the sudden realization that your life will never be the same again hits you like a tidal wave. Maybe you have just reached a point in life where you question what it’s all about: what it means, what the future holds in store for you. The first four tracks ask these questions and evoke these emotions. Life is looked at from a different perspective, from the spiritual to the holistic. Maybe at this point you’re feeling overwhelmed, crying out earnestly YES, this is how I’m feeling, life is getting me down and I want it to stop… I hear you, say Stars of the Lid. Tracks five and six reveal a hushed soothing optimism in tone, that comforting voice that says hey, it’s alright, you have good times and bad times, just roll with the punches and don’t give up just yet. Life’s too short to be worrying about such things. And you know what? It works. Your problems will feel first like the most important thing in the world, and then the least. You’ll fall in and out of love, have a massive burden released from your shoulders, you’ll decide to be more impulsive and you’ll go into your next few days with such a changed outlook on life that people can’t help but notice.
No moment in life is too small or insignificant to be given a spotlight on this album. In Dopamine Clouds over Craven Cottage, we hear the brief, distant sound of a Fulham football match. Who’s to say these little moments in life aren’t important? Some of my fondest memories involve nothing more than doing little things with people I love: going for walks, having coffee, driving around the country at 3am. And that’s what’s so beautiful about this album: like I said at the beginning, it’s a wide, all-encompassing range of feeling. Nothing is too unimportant, and it reminds us that life is more than just going about our day to day business, it’s a summation of both the good times and the bad, and how we deal with them, use them to build our character and ultimately make us better people.
There’s so much more I could write about this album. I want to truly express how beautiful bits of it are, (the unduly gorgeous Even If You’re Never Awake, with its guitar sounding like the lonely cry of a hazy violin, is perhaps my personal favourite) how tragic, how uplifting, how sad. I want to commend it for its boldness, for its indefinable place in the musical world, for its sleepy, hazy approach making you feel like you’re floating through a warm, calm, dark ocean. I want to, really. But ultimately this is one of those albums that probably means different things to different people; it can make one person cry and bore someone else to tears. You must experience it yourself and make your own mind up. But to me, it means a spectral representation of some of our most honorable and permeating emotions. Less of a musical experience than a psychological one, Stars of the Lid And Their Refinement of the Decline moves me in ways few other pieces of music can. I could fall asleep to it, I could cry to it, rejoice to it, love to it, laugh to it, live to it, die to it.
Words – Adam.