I wasn’t prepared for the musical experience I was about to have when I arrived at Lincoln Hall during Loscil’s set. How enveloping and surprisingly loud Loscil’s lightly beat-driven ambience was ended up being an indication of things to come and I enjoyed it quite a bit. This was the final show in the series of shows celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Kranky Records—all four shows sold out well beforehand and featured a diverse range of musical acts that employed varying degrees of ambience but all shared an adventurous nature that Kranky is famous for fostering and nurturing.
Once Loscil was finished the final preparations were made for Stars of the Lid’s entrance—there were chairs and music stands filling the stage as the band had brought along an 8 or 9 piece small orchestra of strings players. Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride were set up at opposite ends of the stage facing each other and there were at least three projectors providing some beautiful and exhilarating images behind them that were mostly layers of mirrored washes of light and colour. The evening started off with mostly orchestral pieces that built slowly and were based around an overlapping call-and-response of simple melodies. McBride and Wiltzie mostly manipulated the sounds of the live strings—sampling them and looping them and providing additional textural flourishes. After playing a few pieces to another beautifully silent crowd (two in one week—that’s definitely a first for me in 18 years of going to live shows) Wiltzie announced that they would play some new material and that’s when things really started to get interesting. If I could think of two words to describe tonight they would merely be ‘impossibly beautiful.’ ‘Amazing’ doesn’t even come close to covering it. I’ll admit that I’m not terribly familiar with the band’s material (I’ve only heard a few of their albums to be honest and have spent a lot of time listening to the related A Winged Victory for the Sullen record) but it seemed to me that this new material is a pretty big leap from what they’re more known for. Where the first few pieces that they played were in line with the placid and beautiful ambient orchestrations that can be found on ‘Avec Laudenum’ there was a more visceral element to the new material. If anyone who’s reading this is going to be seeing the band in Brooklyn on Tuesday—you’re in for a real treat as that is the only other live date in the US that the band is playing this year.
There was a sort of hypnotic tension that built and built and built over the course of their set coming to an intense climax with their penultimate piece (which I believe was ‘December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface’ off of ‘…and Their Refinement of the Decline’)—it had the drive and emotional impact of any of the best Sigur Rós songs but without the aid of drums. They built an ornate velocity just around repeated string patterns that looped in a massive round punctuated by a rising and ebbing tide of huge bass tones that pounded against my body—these bass tones by themselves were about as intensely physical as those that I heard/felt during my bloody valentine at the Aragon last month. The piece just kept building and building and building into a sort of joyful, trilling cacophony—it was unexpected and thrilling. I definitely wasn’t expecting an emotional rush of that magnitude at this show, but it ended up being a high point amongst many emotional highs I’ve experienced at shows this year. Talk about a fitting conclusion to a weekend of shows celebrating one of the most unique labels in music today.