The Dead Texan: S/T (Kranky, 2004)

by Jason

The Dead TexanThe Dead Texan is an audio/visual release with Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) as the musical side and Christina Vantzos as the visual artist. Unfortunately, I only have the audio side of the project and will be commenting on that for the time being. If I obtain the visual side, I will make an effort to edit my review to include it as well. Wiltzie brings to the table the floating clouds of Stars of the Lid and makes breathtaking soundscapes and gorgeous, moving pieces. Moving through lush keyboard and acoustic accents, Wiltzie takes his listener on a tour of things beautiful and sublime.

This self-titled disc starts off with “The Six Million Dollar Sandwich.” The listener is immediately invited into the lushness of Wiltzie’s musical brush strokes. Piano floats on top of cloud-like keys. Shimmering guitar enters the mix and reminds me of a beautiful sunset in the middle of the New Mexico desert, with the color of the red clay blending with the sun’s last moments in sight. Wiltzie’s vocals make a rare appearance on this track towards its finish. The vocals are a tad eerie, with a staccato type of feel. With the sun having gone out of site, the earth rotates into the view of the starry night with “Glen’s Goo.” Ok, the title of the song doesn’t evoke vast scenes of the Milky Way, but it sure does emote that for me as I sit and feel the reverberating synths. The sound is atmospheric, lucid, and soothing. This leads the listener into “A Chronicle of Early Failures – Part 1.” This track begins with a somber tone and leads into louder strumming of an acoustic guitar. This calms down and the synths hum to life and, perhaps, call the listener to contemplation. Perhaps I am influenced by the title of the song, as I think I should be, but it seems there is a sense of regret in the sounds of this track. The song is powerfully emotive: still, yet unsettled. “A Chronicle of Early Failures – Part 2” starts with wind sounds, an almost growling, and some clicks. There are two senses I get from this song. Either, there is something ominous on the horizon or The Texan is inviting the listener to an awakening. The sounds eventually disappear and Wiltzie floats a hopeful listener on clouds of warm sounds. His musical brush strokes are deep and broad, creating gorgeous movements throughout his pieces.

“Taco de Macque” begins with sounds of refreshing rain and a sample saying “I feel sorry for you kid.” There is slow piano and melancholy synth. This is one of those tracks that one “sits in,” if you know what I mean. “Aegina Airlines” starts with soft piano and moves into shimmering sounds that move around the piano work. The sounds are angelic and the voices in the keys really speak to the listener. “When I See Scissors I Can’t Help but Think of You” is dreamy with a beautiful piano melody and breathing synths. “Girth Rides a Horse” is a short track with swirling sounds and humming, reverberating keys. The build in this song is a bit more prevalent and the volume goes up a bit as the track progresses. This fades into the night sky as the keys dwindle down to a small swirl of sound and then silence.

“La Ballade d’Alain Georges” has a very slow, plodding feel that lies upon the hum of a drone. This grows into a throbbing, ethereal rise of keys. Some backwards sound eventually join the mix as it builds slowly and patiently. The track is emotive, peaceful, and altogether moving. This is the longest track on the disc and it really shows Wiltzie’s ability to be patient in composition and really allow the music and soundscapes to take the listener somewhere. “Beatrice Part 2” floats along into the air of the room. It is lush and spacious. This has a darker feel to it, but not so much depressing as beautiful. Kind of like the dark beauty of the sea or night sky. Eventually, violin type sounds come into play and the drone floats among the staccato of the strings. Toward the end of the track, there is a moment of slide guitar that washes in and out of the mix. The album ends with “The Struggle.” Voices intermix with backward sounds as the track begins and they fade to simple, subdued keys. There is what I might call a guitar hook playing a melody over the keys that is rather awesome. Perhaps the struggle here is between the power of the keys and that of the melody fighting for prominence in the mix. This fades into waves of warm guitar and keys and they blend together and stop fighting one another. By the end of the song, there are vocals by Wiltzie and a female vocalist. They are bright and beautiful and sing, “Every time we ask now why are we going so fast we had better stay awake cause the sun cannot last.” It seems that the slow patience of the music invites the listener to take a look around and step out of our fast-paced lives.

The Dead Texan is a beautiful project. Wiltzie has outdone himself and has proven once again that he is an ambient master. His soundscapes are lush, lucid, floating and breath taking. I can’t wait to see the visuals!

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