Sounds Like: The tranquility that follows oblivion.
If the measure your favorite album is the number of times you’ve played it, “And Their Refinement of the Decline” would be mine, easily. No contest. For the past fifteen years, this album as lived with me. For the past eight or so years, it has received multiple spins per month. It is a part of my everyday routine. With each spin, I hear something new.
Trying to describe the sound of a record such as this is futile, as I really believe everyone hears something different. It’s a cipher that only rewards those who are willing to sit with it.
So instead of describing the tracks, I will tell the story of how I got to this point, where this record is a fundamental part of my DNA. In the summer of 2007, I was pursing the aisles of Philadelphia’s AKA Music. AKA was a destination for me, so I took my time, carefully deciding what to walk out with. While shopping, this album was playing. It was not something I noticed, at least not until this exchange between two of the clerks:
“ I thought you hated this?” “Yeah, I dunno, It’s starting to grow on me.”
That was it, no more was said, but it got my attention enough to start listening. All I heard were tones. I didn’t get it. I shortly left with my purchases. “And Their Refinement of the Decline” was not among them.
But that conversation haunted me. How would that music grow one anybody? Having peeked the band’s name at the shop, I started to research them online, and found that they had real acclaim and a following. For months it stuck in the back of my brain, Gnawing at me, until I could finally make a return trip to AKA. I headed straight for the “S” section and there it was. I bought it, determined to make a final conclusion about this record.
What I heard was something monolithic, drones that came in different shapes. For the next couple of years, it was an occasional listen. Something I would put on when I was in a mood. Then, in 2013, I had found myself in a new job that demanded a lot of overnight travel, about three out of five days a week I was in a different city across the northeast. I loved being on the road, but sometimes I had trouble acclimating to new hotels. One trip, on a whim, I threw this album onto my Ipod. During a restless night, I put it on at bedtime. There in the darkness, it revealed itself. I started to hear the orchestral layers, the depth this music contained. I was tucked away, in my own private pocket of the world, removed from anyone who knew me, letting the music wash over me. It had taken hold. I still carry an Ipod everywhere, and the album has stayed on it ever since that trip. It became my soundtrack for the road, my weighted blanket on the nights by myself. It would tuck me in, the music folding in on itself, like a kaledeiscope constantly revealing new dimensions.
When the pandemic started, I turned to music for solace more than ever. “And Their Refinement of the Decline” would get played loudly - this time on vinyl - at the end of my day, when the rest of the world was asleep. It removed the terror, the anxiety and the doubt. It didn’t replace them with anything, it just removed them .
I’ve since obtained all the albums by Stars of the Lid, and their all wonderful, but nothing can touch “And Their Refinement of the Decline.” If you open yourself to it in the slightest, it gets it’s hooks into you and slowly starts to change you. What was once one dimensional, I now hear vast musical universes when I listen. It’s transformative power almost sounds like something from a horror film, but it isn’t.
Give in, and let go.
Find“And Their Refinement of the Decline” and all their other albums on the Stars of The Lid Bandcamp Page!