The Tired Sounds Of came out nearly five and a half years ago and in the time since then has become one of my most trusted ambient releases. Sure, I love my Brian Eno and my more modern work by Deathprod and others, but there's something about the sounds that the duo of Stars Of The Lid put together on that release that call me back time after time. Of course, since that release came out, both members of the group have released solid solo albums (Adam Wiltzie's The Dead Texan and Brian McBride's When The Detail Lost It's Freedom), but neither of those releases seemed to quite match the power of the two when they were working together under that somnolent pseudonym.
And so And Their Refinement Of The Decline is not only a big release because it's their first in so many years, but also because it marks the ten year period of the two musicians working together, as well as the hundredth release on the venerable Kranky label. It's another sprawling 2CD, 3LP release from the group, clocking in at over two hours in length and it's quite possibly even more massive sounding and moving than their previous album.
That's saying a lot, and while it's not quite as immediately melodic as either of the solo albums from each member of the group, it's yet another album from Stars Of The Lid that simply seeps down around you and absorbs into your being. "Dungtitled (In A Major)" opens the release with a wheeze of filtered horns, then dissolves immediately into one of their familiar, yet somehow still highly moving widescreen panoramas of blurring strings, with a horn melody that creeps back in and tiptoes the line between mournful and triumphant. The two-part "Articulate Silences" is some of the most gorgeous stuff the two have ever done, letting breathy chords decay into silence before pushing into the foreground again, with the latter making subtle movements that weaken the knees.
When it was announced that Stars Of The Lid had another album coming out, I have to admit that it immediately shot to near the top of my list in terms of anticipated releases, but this eighteen song set still feels overwhelming (in a good way) at times. On the playfully-titled (one of several) "Don't Bother They're Here," huge waves of filtered drones pulse for over ten minutes while some underlying melodic elements play out slightly more actively, creating a nice juxtaposition of sound. Elsewhere, the ten-minute plus "The Daughters Of Quiet Minds" again feels familiar as a soft scarf or pair of gloves, but again shifts and breathes with just enough of a new edge that it's refreshing.
Yes, there are thousands of artists creating ambient music, and some of them probably have even nudged up slightly against the work that Stars Of The Lid create, but somehow this duo have managed to carve out another solid batch of songs that simply sound unlike anyone else doing this sort of thing. There are hints of modern classical, drone, and sheer textures that you won't find anywhere else, and when played on headphones (or nice speakers) And Their Refinement Of The Decline is literally a moving experience. Call it music for lucid dreaming, call it music for daydreams, or call it music for simply strolling in the dusk, this is another album that will stretch time and take you to another place.