Last month, exactly,¬†kranky reissued Stars of the Lid’s¬†The Ballasted Orchestra; it had been out of print for a decade until that point. The Ballasted Orchestra and¬†Gravitational Pull vs. The Desire for Aquatic Life (the former’s precursor)¬†are constantly contending with each other for my favorite release from Stars of the Lid. The album art may be among my favorites as well. This dark and foreboding tapestry of drone, loops, wonder, and apocalyptic overtones give¬†The Ballasted Orchestra an unforgettable personality. Texas duo Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride originally released this epic in 1996 on the same label –¬†kranky.¬†Backwards guitar, ¬†degrading horns and strings swell throughout the album to give it a sometimes hellish atmosphere that doesn’t go without appreciation. “Taphead” gives the feeling that a nuclear holocaust has just occurred, and you’re just rising out of the wreckage to gaze upon the horror. “F*cked Up (3:57 AM),” which follows “Taphead,” only contributes to that aforementioned feeling. The dissonance only grows stronger as the track begins. At the climax of this gigantic wave of noise, these decrepit strings begin to manifest themselves and manage to get in front of the constant fuzzy drone that’s occurring in the background. Near the end, these deep horns (perhaps they’re strings?) that sound like bastardized whale calls commingle with the fuzz in the background until the drone begins to die. “Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30” is considered the piece de resistance off this album with its buzzing and droning guitar, along with various synthesizer effects. (For those unfamiliar with David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, that episode doesn’t exist.) The closing track “The Artificial Pine Arch Song” has this feeling of redemption… a new beginning… that spans out through a gigantic forest… the sun is rising. Dare I say, this is actually a bright, happier track! The most significant thing about the vinyl version of The Ballasted Orchestra¬†is that it includes the 6 minute track, “24 Inch Cymbal,” that is not available on the digital or CD version. Another interesting thing is that the reissue apparently eliminates a brief untitled track that originally concluded the first pressing. Although they’re saying that there’s 9 additional minutes of material not on CD or digital… Anyhow, I’ll stop writing now.
Purely droning ambiance. "...finds Stars of the Lid adding harmonica and didgeridoo to an arsenal of sound sources that already includes guitars, effects and field recordings."
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