Stars of the Lid's Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid is two hours of ambient sublimation and bliss-out. The latest effort of Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie is very beautiful melodically and spiritually.
Reminiscent of early 20th century work such as French surrealist Erik Satie's Gymnopèdies, Tired Sounds has compassionate, tender and emotionally expansive aspects. It is also redolent of impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy, bringing to mind images such as that of a newborn at peace, floating among stars. And there are parallels with the sublime grandeur of Henryk Mikolaj Górecki's mid-century modern compositions. Like Górecki's works, Tired Sounds shows formal experimentation that builds to melodic climaxes; melody carries a "hugeness" of emotion. It is like the atmosphere within an atom, magnified to its largest extent many millions of times, creating an entire new universe. That melodic hugeness, that tremendous world within the atom, contains an auditory holiness, with arms open wide for the skeptic's contemplation. This is no church music, nor is it Windham Hill-style New Age, although it is music for the spirit.
Notwithstanding these earlier influences, Tired Sounds is far from a backward-looking piece of music, but rather a modern, ambient "neo-symphony." Minimalist and parametric, a bare, faint rock sensibility survives in micro-traces.
And, as an "ambient neo-symphony," Tired Sounds works a bit differently. A virtual rhythm is constructed, yet there are no drums, no percussions. Rhythm is instead created through the layering of texture, atmosphere and melody, plus mathematical patterning of orchestration. It's almost as if the rhythm is imagined; yet in its ineffable way it is there, it exists.
Electronically treated guitars, strings, keyboards and horns, from soprano to bass in tone, are occasionally combined with field recordings, creating an otherworldly impression. Again, Tired Sounds recalls another space-based metaphor, suggesting that we're viewing planet Earth from a vantage point far away in another galaxy. We hear the almost tuneful ambience and mundane sound samples from Earth filtering through to our distant, more evolved resting spot, light years in the future, among the stars.
C'est triste! Especially with suite names such as "Requiem for Dying Mothers" and "Austin Texas Mental Hospital." There is, perhaps, a punk aesthetic distantly underpinning Tired Sounds, but it remains a trace, found in the names of the suites and the cover art's photography, which, like the music is jarring and yet sublime. And in this sad loveliness is perhaps the essence of ecstasy, the acceptance of beauty in its most raw state, in its imperfect perfection.
Tired Sounds is six suites that stretch across two CDs and six sides of vinyl. That's a lot to listen to, but it's a worthwhile commitment. I imagine pulling Tired Sounds off the shelf for continued listenings well into the future.