Gravitational Pull vs. the Desire for an Aquatic Life is, I have to say, a pretty fantastically appropriate title for a Stars of the Lid album. Captures the elemental, slow-moving feel of their drone compositions, not to mention their profound beauty. This is their second album, from 1996, on Kranky Records.
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Before it was beautiful it was dark, like dusk, and there was fog. Stars of the Lid went on to make two gorgeous, sunshined drone classics in ‘Refinement’ and ‘Tired Sounds’ -- both so hopeful and lovely that they often got compared to the narrative driven music of post-rock -- but once there was disquiet. Their second record, ‘Gravitational Pull’, is drones from gutters and within spectres, a more peculiar, less inviting churn of treated instruments and watery sound that focuses on bewilderment, that lives in broken passages. It is still drone, but it is not rise and fall and rise and fall; it’s the band in stumbling blocks.
On ‘Gravitational Pull’, there were times were Stars of the Lid sounded like hobbyist noisemakers, like a subdued Skullflower; “Lactate’s Moment” is one of their long, sustained shimmers punctuated by shrill effects and weird twangs, the track busied to bluster until it sounds like it’s going around and around, rather than forward and into. “Cantus” plays around typical Stars of the Lid blocks of sound, utilising swamplike samples and raindrops to create a terse environment the way the sounds of Fulham’s football stadium created euphoric ones on “Dopamine Clouds Over Craven Cottage”.
There are moments where Stars of the Lid almost pluck what we know them to be now out of the more chaotic soundscapes they were producing: “Be Little With Me” sounds near romantic in its shrill production, the looped and heavily processed piano twinkle meeting an endless drone to suggest, if not outright declare, beauty. It's all quite essential; a classic band creating their weirdest, darkest music as mere embryos.
8/10 Jack Customer review, 2nd July 2015
The material SOTL have released, in particular their older work like this and Ballasted Orchestra, can seem uninteresting if you're not paying attention (one of the main complaints by people who don't listen to ambient frequently). The trick is to get into a state of total relaxation or put on your headphones while you're drifting off. This music triggers a quasi-dream state in my mind, plays back childhood memories, fantasy worlds that I have imagined, and makes me think of all that was and all that will ever be.
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- Gravitational Pull vs The Desire for an Aquatic Life by Stars Of The Lid
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