Records Revisited – Stars Of The Lid – The Tired Sounds Of (2001)

The most monumental silence of all time: With »The Tired Sounds Of«, the two US musicians Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie aka Stars Of The Lid created in 2001 one of the most important ambient albums of all time. With over two hours of sounds, drones and loops, they gave the genre a totally new depth.

At the turn of the millennium came the silence. Because hardly any genre produced so many masterpieces in this short period of time as Ambient. There was »Endless Summer« by Fennesz, there were the »Disintegration Loops« by William Basinski, there was »Pop« by Gas – and yet they all stand in the shadow of a monument of the genre. For »The Tired Sounds Of« is, in its intensity, a brute work of art whose echoes resonate with its listeners for all eternity. Yet shortly after its release on October 29, 2001, interest was limited.

It wasn’t until two years later that Adam Wiltzie’s phone rang, as he once told US magazine Rolling Stone in an interview. »Yeah, something really strange is happening«, Joel Leoschke, co-founder of Kranky Stars of the Lid’s label, told him. After its release, just 5,000 units crossed the counter, Wiltzie said. Three years later, however, 10,000 units suddenly went within six to eight months. »We hadn’t done anything«, Wiltzie said. But, what had happened?

The fact that not only lovers of ambient and drone were suddenly interested in Stars of the Lid was also due to the technical conditions: The Internet and various music forums suddenly accelerated classic word-of-mouth marketing. (»Mr. Kranky«, as McBride and Wiltzie called Leoschke in the interview, had never had it with big advertising budgets anyway, and the label’s artists depended on their fans to communicate). And that aside, »The Tired Sounds Of« remains to this day a two-hour-plus stroke of genius that plunges its listeners into a shimmering melancholy.

The various compositions process loops and drones from instruments like piano, guitar or piano. Sometimes it feels like the almost faded sounds from an orchestra pit when there is no one left in the room. Many critics pointed out that this music doesn’t allow anything besides itself, that listeners have to get completely involved in this album. (That shortly after its release the first yoga teachers discovered the record for themselves goes without saying). Many moments remain blurred, as in »Ballad of Distances, Pt. 2« or in »Piano Aquieu«. Yet Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie’s sound on this album always carries a sacred majesty.

here are no melodies, only this state between waking and dreaming that makes up this album.

If Brian Eno’s concept of ambient is the idea of music fitting into the atmosphere of a room, »The Tired Sounds Of« is its own labyrinthine sanctuary of unimaginable size. Nothing here conforms to a space; rather, McBride and Wiltzie first form the architecture of the infinite with this sound. No beat gives a rhythm, everything grows and fades away in equal measure, everything appears and disappears. Again and again. Everything flows in this sound.

That the album would comprise three LPs at once was clear to the band from the beginning. McBride and Wiltzie simply wanted to make a longer record to get out of the usual release rhythm. Before that, there was a new Stars of the Lid album almost every year, but for six years after »The Tired Sounds Of« nothing more appeared. Only in 2007 »And their Refinement of the Decline« followed – the last album of the band until today. Rumors about a new work coming out soon have been coming up since then and fade away just as quickly.

Due to its length, »The Tired Sounds Of« is difficult to grasp even today. Because this record needs its time. There are no melodies, only this state between waking and dreaming that makes up this album. WIlliam Basinski’s »Disintegration Loops« sets transience to music, »The Tired Sounds Of« is existentialist, nudging its listeners into an endless inwardness. All of this was attempted by other artists before Stars of the Lid. But no one managed it as consistently, as forcefully, as McBride and Wiltzie do on this album. It is a flood of silence set to music, of stillness, of timelessness.

A critic once said about »The Tired Sounds Of« it is the most boring album ever. If boredom includes those moments in life when daydreaming and fleeing thoughts are at home, this may be true. In the modern world, it’s exhausting to get into that state, even though it’s so important for creativity and one’s consciousness. »The Tired Sounds Of« is a voiceless swan song to the world outside. It is perfect silence. You just have to listen closely.

Stars Of The Lid
The Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid
Kranky • 2001 • from 79.99€