December 21, 2005

Brian McBride "When THe Detail Lost Its Freedom"

For those who were and are enamored with Texas experimental music, the name Brian McBride is a familiar one. As one-half of the duo Stars of the Lid, McBride and Adam Wiltzie composed a handful of beautiful, still records that quietly stand apart from their contemporaries. Mixing drone and synthetic tones with languid melody, Stars of the Lid's music exuded simplicty and unhurried beauty. Bands such as that often tend to disappear into the eather, and Stars of the Lid has been dormant for a few years--and that Wiltzie has also released a solo record, as The Dead Texan--it's not surprising that McBride has pursued a solo release.

Where Stars of the Lid demonstrated that the beauty of classical music can be found in drone-rock if you patiently wait for it, McBride's solo debut, When The Detail Lost Its Freedom, is a much more traditional exploration of classical themes within gentle ambient compositions. Though there are natural similarities between his solo work and Stars of the Lid, by himself, McBride eschews an overreliance on synthetic instrumentation, and the songs on Detail consist of traditional arrangements and very few special effects. In fact, most of Detail's songs are guitar-based--but you'd be hard-pressed to find any guitars. You'll find other things, though, like bells and manipulated percussion, as well as piano and harmonica--and on two songs, "The Guilt of Uncomplicated Thought" and "Our Last Moment in Song," contain beautiful vocals from McBride and guest female vocalists Cheree Jetton and Cheri Keating, respectively.

Ultimately, though, the instruments don't matter--it's the music that's important. McBride's steady hand is responsible for twelve gorgeous, simple ambient pieces that invoke a grey, cold winter's day. There's nothing hurried, rushed, or frantic about any of these pieces; they're still and gentle, instantly relaxing for those who choose to listen. Songs like "Our Last Moment In Song" and "I Will" recall the works of ambient masters Eno and Harold Budd, while the melodies of "For Those Who Hesitate" and "Retenir" swirl around in a way that recalls a pedal steel guitar, and it's not hard to picture these as BJ Cole compositions. But, ultimately, McBride's work is all his own, and he's quietly created a wonderful record that's perfect for relaxation and concentration. Unhurried and undaunted, it quietly moves along, gently flowing into the listener's soul.

There have been rumblings that Stars of the Lid will be recording in 2006. While it is good to know that the duo will once again place their minds together in collaboration, When The Detail Lost Its Freedom establishes McBride as a solo artist, and shows that he's quite capable of making excellent music on his own. This is a beautiful record that transcends genre, doing nothing more than caressing the listener's mind with beautiful, unhurried melody.

--Joseph Kyle

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