Stars of the Lid – National Concert Hall, Dublin – 09-10-16 – Review by Killian Laher
Stars of the Lid have been unfurling carefully put together compositions at a painstakingly slow pace over the last 20 odd years or so. A rare chance to see them live was not to be missed but there was a degree of intrigue as to how their minimal, ambient droning music would translate live? An opportunity to drift off into oblivion?
Impish, shoe-less Caoimihín Ó Raghallaigh opened the evening with a brief set, taking the rather hackneyed instruments of fiddle and tin whistle and feeding them through some kind of a sampler to transform them into looping, experimental music, brought to particularly strong effect on Easter Snow. His disarming, down-to-earth charm is at odds with his complex, boundary-pushing music. Certainly a man to keep an eye on.
Any thoughts of a soporific set by the main act were dispelled by the size and scale of the ensemble on stage. As well as Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie on either side of the stage, centre stage was occupied by string ensemble the Echo Collective, while an enormous vintage Moog synthesizer dwarfed all and sundry. The collection of musicians on stage played consistently without pause for the first 40 minutes or so, encompassing versions of their material such as Requiem for Dying Mothers (parts 1 & II) amongst other tracks from their back catalogue. After some introductions by Wiltzie, we were treated to further explorations in a similar vein, forcing the listener to question their own definition of what music truly is.
Attempting to understand which element was creating what was somewhat futile, an absolute barrage of sound washed over the audience, enhanced in no small part by projectionist Luke Savisky who created pictures which complemented the sound, while lasers by German lighting designer MFO, along with copious quantities of dry ice created an otherworldly atmosphere. The intensity of the sound ebbed and flowed, with the Echo Collective ranging from gentle bursts of strings to furiously scraping their instruments back and forth for dear life. But it was the Moog which had the largest impact, producing a powerful, sense-distorting sound which you felt right in the pit of your stomach. Not that the night was purely about power, the strings on Requiem For Dying Mothers (part II) provided moments of poignancy.
An astounding evening, not sure that words in the English language have been created to truly describe the vast caverns of sound which washed over an audience who left in the knowledge that this was no ordinary gig, but something rather unique.