If ‘ambient’s signifies a kind of music that aspires to the condition of backdrop – ala Grandpa Satie and his ‘music for furniture’ – then I wouldn’t call this record ambient at all. The music of Stars Of The Lid changes the shape of the room; enveloping, it leaves no space for the intrusion of other noise or activity. Beautifully rounded waves of guitar and synthesizer unfurl at the pace of a resting pulse – the architecture of this album encloses the body as well as the space around it.
Ostensibly, nothing happens for about two hours. A fingernail’s width below the surface however, this album teems with life. Those heartbeat chords swell and decay, shifting with infinite subtlety from major to minor and back again, the repetition allowing for undertones to emerge and then fade. Such harmonies recall Henryk Gorecki at his most radiant: the Lento (Cantabille Semplice) movement of his Third Symphony held under water perhaps, its colours left to run and bleed. At certain moments other textures come through – piano and violin, the sound of children calling – but always the album returns to those long, slow note clusters, so warm that you could take a bath in them.
And Their Refinement… is an endurance test of sorts. Even for those listeners who do find it hypnotising it represents a significant commitment, difficult as it is to walk away from once it’s begun. And this is Stars Of The Lid’s true radicalism – for many will argue that their music is unnecessarily regressive – to have crafted an album which demands such time, space and concentration, in an age where casual downloads and cursory listens are the norm. Hear this record. Just not while you’re doing the housework.