Stars of the Lid

Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie met in Austin, TX in 1990 when they were both college students.  McBride had a radio show on the college station and Wiltzie did live sound for local bands like Ed Hall as well as recording (ultimately he would be behind the desk for Bedhead).  A mutual interest in music ("When you're at a party in 1990 and you attempt to put on Eric Satie and everyone just scowls at you - Brian simply smiled" Wiltzie told XLR8R in 2003) and obsession with Twin Peaks (song titles are rife with Lynchiana) motivated the two to work together.

Sedimental released the debut Stars of the Lid CD, Music for Nitrous Oxide, in 1995.  Recorded on four track tape deck, Lucy Cage wrote in The Lizard that; "It's alarming how the notes they employ are piercingly physical; ringing tones that rise up and out of the speakers like alien tendrils; deep deep bass burrs that shake the air and the walls and frighten the neighbors."  We took notice at kranky immediately.  A year and a half later, Sedimental released a limited edition LP called Gravitational Pull vs. The Desire For An Aquatic Life (which kranky would release later with extra music on compact disc).

Stars of the Lid played out, with visual artist Luke Savisky providing visuals that often took four film projectors to realize and bathed the band in color and motion.  Spliced together from found film and library stock, Savisky's contribution to the band's live happenings is never the same two nights in a row and is, in a fundamental sense, an improvised light environment.  Bill Meyer stated in The Chicago Reader that "I've never experienced anything more psychedelic than the vertiginous swirl of sound and sight".

As a live soundperson Adam Wiltzie got work with The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev.  He stopped through Chicago on one tour.  A high powered confab took place and kranky got to work with Stars of the Lid.  In 1997 the double LP/CD set The Ballasted Orchestra came out.  Ptolemaic Terrascope called the album "the band's most spacious, complete and compelling work yet."  Much of the grain of the first recordings was smoothed over as the duo reached into wider melodies.  In 1998 the reissue of Gravitational Pull... came out on kranky.

As Mike Shanley noted in Discourse that year; "Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride, armed with nothing but their guitars and maybe a few effects or samplers, create something symphonic, with long tones that rise up and spin around each other.  In their hands, even empty space becomes as much a part of a song..."

Stars of the Lid toured the U.S. and Canada with Bedhead and Michael Gira's Angels of Light, played some select shows in the U.K. and Adam Wiltzie did live sound for Labradford in Europe.  Adam Wiltzie and Labradford's Bobby Donne each remixed the other's band for a 12 inch single on the Trance Syndicate's Kahanek Incident' series.  A painter named Jon McCafferty (who had contributed the cover art for R.E.M.'s Green album) contacted the band, explaining how he listened to Stars of the Lid as he painted.  A collaboration ensued, with McCafferty contributing artwork in the form of a painting and Stars of the Lid incorporating recordings of the painter painting, and the ambient sounds of his studio, to their own compositions.  The result was the Per Aspera ad Astra LP/CD.

    "This collaboration... provides ample reward from its simple, exquisite designs and keeps the listener searching for sonic flotsam after each unique tide of instrumental sound washes ashore.  The album is comprised of field recordings of John McCafferty painting in his studio mixed with the duo's subtle palette of sounds...  The humming harmony of cellos on 'Anchor States: Part One' provides the boldest strokes; but elsewhere the soft blurs of sound suggest ultra-slowmotion close-ups of a brush thick with paint sliding across a virgin canvas.  Listen closely enough and slowly enough and you'll be able to hear what color."
     Steve Ciabattoni,  CMJ New Music Report,  Oct. 5, 1998

The presence of cellos on Per Aspera was a hint of the ambitions Stars of the Lid had for their next album.  By this time Brian McBride had moved to Chicago and collaboration became a long distance affair.  The work Adam Wiltzie and Bobby Donne began together on the remix effort became a new duo called Aix Em Klemm.  McBride had played in The Pilot Ships and Wiltzie was contributing guitar to Windsor For The Derby.

Nobody at kranky batted an eyelid when Stars of the Lid told us they wanted to release a triple album.  In 2001 Brain McBride told The Austin Chronicle  that "I do think we're composers, there's some pretentiousness associated with that word, which I think is part of the reason we probably haven't embraced that for a long time, but that's really what's going on."  Using string sections, horns and piano the duo expanded their arsenal and laid down The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid in fall 2001.

    "New to these recordings is an almost symphonic compostion, evoked not only by the use of more traditional instruments like strings, but also with a repetition of musical phrases that brings to mind a complex fugue or a slowed down, tweaked-out waltz."
     Eric Frost,  Your Flesh  No. 47

The Tired Sounds... is where ambition meets achievement.

In 2002 kranky reissued Avec Laudenum in North America, an album that had originally been released on the Belgian Sub Rosa label in 1999.

Kevin Hainey described the album in Eye Weekly as

    "the missing link between the Stars' drone experiments of yesteryear and the uncompromising restraint and beauty of their more discreet music."

Adam Wiltzie now lives in Brussells, Belgium and Brian McBride in Los Angeles.  They are sticking to the tried and true working methods they've used in the past, as well planning some face-to-face recording later in 2004.

selected discography
Music for Nitrous Oxide CD [Sedimental]
Gravitational Pull vs. The Desire For an Aquatic Life LP [Sedimental]
"Good Night" on V/A Monsters, Robots and Bug Men DCD [Virgin, U.K.]
split 12" with Labradford The Kahanek Incident, Vol 3 [Trance Syndicate]
Maneuvering the Nocturnal Hum 12" [Earworm, U.K.]
Avec Laudenum CD/ LP [Sub Rosa, Belgium]

kranky titles available
And Their Refinement of the Decline
Avec Laudenum
The Tired Sounds of,...
Per Aspera ad Astra
Gravitational Pull vs. The Desire For An Aquatic Life
The Ballasted Orchestra

see also
Aix Em Klemm - Aix Em Klemm

external links
Stars of the Lid -