concert reviews

Stars of the Lid at Iota, Arlington, VA, Sunday 4 May 2008

Stars of the Lid's ambient minimalism isn't quite suited for a rock club, and the duo's current (and rare) North American tour is stopping predominantly at museums, churches and theaters. The crowd at Iota on Sunday night turned the venue into one more suited to the group's mesmerizing drone: About half the audience sat on the floor in silence in front of the stage to watch core members Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride perform with a string trio.

The group's music is so serene and subtle that it could be a film score, so it made perfect sense to have images projected behind the musicians. Unlike a traditional film, though, those projections were more evocative than literal: While there were some shapes that suggested specific images (at various moments: stars, rippling water and a butterfly wing), more often the images were just splotches of light and color that seemed to react to the music rather than the other way around.

Those impressionistic shapes complemented the group's lengthy pieces, which culminated in the long, slow crescendo of "December Hunting for Vegetarian [Expletive]" from last year's outstanding "And Their Refinement of the Decline." The music wasn't about specific sounds or literal meaning; instead, its beauty lay in the gracefulness of its measured pace and the effortlessly precise interplay among guitars, effects and strings.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 6 May 2008
.: Selected discography: And Their Refinement of the Decline (Stars of the Lid, 2007); The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid (Stars of the Lid, 2001); Avec Laudenum (Stars of the Lid, 1999); Per Aspera Ad Astra (Stars of the Lid, 1998); The Ballasted Orchestra (Stars of the Lid, 1997); Gravitational Pull Vs. the Desire for an Aquatic Life (Stars of the Lid, 1996).