Another commanding performance from Brian Mcbride and Adam Wiltzie, the opening “Central Texas” setting the tone with the distant sound of fading breath, slow paced, barely audible, full of life.
When it comes to genre-defining releases, even releases that define a band’s career, few sum up ambient music, and the work of Stars of the Lid in general like ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’. Released in 1996 it was their third album and the band’s first for the Kranky label and was a perfect statement of intent from a band who have never put their name to a bad record.
Flowing almost continuously ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’ was unlike anything else around at the time – it was lumped in with post-rock, quite strangely, but this was like hearing Arvo Part piped into a gigantic metal chamber, or a fresh take on Brian Eno’s ambient dictat. It’s hard to go into detail track by track, but in my mind ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’ is the partner of Stars of the Lid’s best known work, the incredible ‘Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid’ in both composition and organisation.
The album starts with the trembling beauty of ‘Central Texas’ but quickly drifts into the gorgeous ‘Sun Drugs’. The real highlight comes with the incredible two-part ‘Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30’, Drone rarely reaches these sort of expansive emotive heights and what sets this album (and band) apart from its peers is that it seems totally effortless. You never need to stop and think as you’re listening, yet at the same time it never feels like background music, rather this is the soundtrack to the most beautiful dream you’ve ever had.