Per Aspera Ad Astra by Stars Of The Lid, Jon Mccafferty (Review)

Pure contemplative magic.
Per Aspera Ad Astra - Stars of the Lid, Jon Mccafferty

So many records purport to be, or get reviewed as being “dreamy, dream-like, surreal” etc. Per Aspera Ad Astra however, is the only disk I’ve ever heard that duplicates the exact feeling of being half-asleep/half-woken up, and unable to do a thing about it.

While the music is indeed suggestive, what really did it for me was the sound of a truck backing up and unloading something. This, of course, is on the album because Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride (SOTL) decided to record the sounds of painter Jon McCafferty while he was making his art. This idea sounds pretty interesting in practice, but other than the truck sounds outside his working space, its hard to tell apart from SOTL’s already barely-there music. They achieve this scarce beauty by an array of heavily processed guitars, field recordings, et cetera. The overall effect they get is that of an orchestra being told to “play as quiet and slowly as possible, for there’s a pre-school of sleeping bloodthirsty children next door.”

Of course, they sounded orchestral before this disk, which adds cello to the mix. Their symphonic quality is achieved mostly by arrangement and careful placement of the sound, something that isn’t as omnipresent in the genre of drone as you might think. But back to the cello, which is as real and warm as a pair of underwear right out of the dryer. Somehow a solo cello piece becomes more interesting here than on any of the solo recitals or classical CDs I’ve ever heard before. Slowly, the Stars bring in their less-natural sounds, and its pure contemplative magic.

Written by Pearson Greer.

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