Stars of the Lid: and Their Refinement of Decline

Bob Burnett: "This music is gorgeous" said Dan, my colleague in the world of media production, as he walked in my office to the soothing sounds of Stars of the Lid's recent release, Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of Decline. "Stick around", I said gleefully, "it's going to be like this for another couple of hours".

Stars of the Lid is a duo effort of Brian McBride and Adam Wilkzie. They've been working together for decades, however this is their first release since 2001's The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid. Their music is a wonderful extension of compositions easily attributed to Brian Eno--layers of warm, flowing sounds that create their own sonic landscapes and for that matter make existing landscapes more interesting. Just think of dust floating in sunlight, clouds in the sky reflecting off the windows of an office building or anything else subtle and spontaneously gorgeous and you'll be in sync with what happens on Stars of the Lid's albums.

I actually backed into this duo thanks to Adam Wilkzie's equally engaging solo effort, The Dead Texan, a collaborative effort with visual artist Christina Vantzos. Adam did the music and Christina did a DVD with 7 animated clips that accompany the music. The Dead Texan has more sonic range than Stars of the Lid--it features spare guitar lines and occasional voices along with the floating keyboard-derived backgrounds. There are moments within the album that Wilkzie not only nods to Eno but directly lifts some of Eno's Another Green World melody lines into lovely reconfigurations.

At other instances The Dead Texan reminds me of softer moments on David Sylvian's Gone To Earth album which features the very nuanced playing by Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson.

If you haven't gathered from reading c60 over the past few months, I am a big fan of extended, slowly evolving compositions a la Eno, Morton Feldman and Lamonte Young. These recordings fit the genre beautifully.


  1. I'm reminded of softer moments on David Sylvian's "Gone To Earth" album which features the very nuanced playing by Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson.

    Can't get too much better a connected recommedation than Mr. Sylvian's Gone to Earth.
    Q: Are you familiar with the linked version? The 2 CD "Gone to Earth"? Just wondering if it is worth upgrading from the single CD USA version. Thanks!
    ..and thanks for this review of Stars of the Lid, an upcoming purchase, to be sure.

  2. I think the expanded version of "Gone To Earth" is worth owning--I've always been much more attracted to the "ambient" disc w/ Fripp and Nelson than the "rock song" disc. The two disc version is much more expansive with "ambient" cuts. For some reason the one disc version sounded more "compressed" to me too. Maybe I just wanted it to be that way to justify something I'd owned on vinyl, then one version of CD, then another version of CD......

    You'll want to check out "The Dead Texan" too! Happy floating in sequence!


  3. Just a short note. Received "Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of Decline" on Friday and I've been playing it non-stop over the weekend. It is all you wrote about although it was dangerous listening for one of our longer drives as it tended to seriously put me into a zone not condusive for driving. I had to pop this in to get a grip on the wheel.