Stars of the Lid’s The Tired Sounds of is one of my all-time favourite records. I can say that because the music has stayed with me, by my side. Sure, Avec Laudenum – which was the first Lid album I bought and whose opener “The Atomiuim” continues to fascinate – and The Ballasted Orchestra had a special place in my heart, but The Tired Sounds of was crushing. I remember what I was doing and where I was when I first heard it. I was at the time fairly new to ambient music. It was in the middle of the spring; I was lying in a darkened room with only my earphones for company, and that’s surely the only true way to experience the music. I pressed play, and as the soft tones and shy strings drifted over me I felt like the music was changing me in some way I didn’t fully understand at the time. It fully relaxes every aspect of your being. The sonorous, languid drones completely soak into your skin and go even deeper than that. They flow into your soul. You’re never the same when you come back out on the other side. It was a deeply spiritual experience, a full-immersion baptism into cool, ambient waters. Revisiting the album, it’s easy to see just how those hours slipped by, lost to the deep, seeping chasms of time. So for myself, as for many other people, the music has a personal connection. It enters you and becomes one with you. It stays with you, and it still has the same power that it originally had upon release. It still rocks.
No one can forget the translucent transition between part one and part two of the sombre “Requiem for Dying Mothers”, or the way that the strings and the drones spiritually swell and abate. It is simply astounding. A lot has already been said about these two albums. They are rightly considered to be ambient titans and were declared instant classics upon their release; they may even be timeless. The music is a fluid trembling of beauty and sadness. For these drones are tired. Tired of living; tired of life. It seems that the lonely people really are getting lonelier. Take a trip inside the “Austin Texas Mental Hospital”, where the deranged drones constantly swirl in a vertigo-inducing loop. Slowly stretched, full-bodied drones surge and recede, stuck in a sickly world of their own psychotic thoughts. Sit beside those grey “Broken Harbors”. You can once more feel the lethargic surge of that late tide. Angelic voices try to break through the low-lying clouds. The shuddering drones of “Mulholland” want to caress you; to take you deeper. The innocent “A Lovesong (For Cubs)” is a sanctuary for sleepy, sub-sonic tones that are more used to showing affection. Heartbroken, the tired drones can no longer fly; they no longer have the inclination or the passion to pick themselves up. They are fatigued; they’ve been hit one too many times and the purple halo of a bruise shows not a single sign of healing. It is sobering, but it is also uplifting. No matter what’s happening in and around the circle of your life, the music puts you instantly at ease. You’re listening to some of the most beautiful music ever recorded.
And Their Refinement of the Decline was another opus that favoured for the most part classical, orchestral strings. Its sad predecessor was perhaps a little more focused on drone-tones, but the clearer sound gave Refinement an almost celestial, otherworldly sound that had previously only been glimpsed at. It blossomed outwards and left the world behind, while The Tired Sounds of was an introverted, painfully tender album that looked to the inner being with its soul-searching and introspection. With hard work and a passion for the wellbeing of every single tone, they coax the drones out. The sound is ‘open’; the notes a little crisper, a little cleaner. They hang in the air like a fog of morning (mourning). Soft, languid motions play out slowly; their dream-like quality casts subtle lights of glowing phosphorescence that then drip into a series of deep cobalt pools. The icy arpeggios of “Don’t Bother They’re Here” chime as they climb and fall. “Dopamine Clouds Over Craven Cottage” – once home to a player named Brian McBride – drift over west London on a late Saturday afternoon. And the fluid tones trickle away, falling deeply. From the blushed tones of “The Daughters of Quiet Minds” to the sparse, cold waters of the placid “Humectez La Mouture”, the music clears the air with its slow-to-fall rain, cleansing the music so as to make it as fresh as a forest of pines. Their subtle approach mixes in with their concentrated control over the dynamics, and it always increases the music’s sensitivity. And the music still feels fresh – it still feels alive – despite a lot of other artists attempting to copy their sound. Those ambient waters are a lot muddier nowadays. This is the first time in five years that these two monolithic albums have been available on vinyl. You’ll remember where you were when you first heard the music, what season it was and what you were doing. It’s the touchstone for ambient music and a defining moment in its history; it’s the equivalent of astronauts walking on the moon for the first time, only this touchdown comes with a much softer landing. They will surround you, too.