Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

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shrouded.in.antiquity
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Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by shrouded.in.antiquity »

I devoted last night's listening to Star's recent full-length on Hospital, which has seen a lot of buzz and some discussion already.

I wasn't into this album at all when I first heard it, I picked it up based on many glowing recommendations for the project with only having heard a little of the material I could find rips of online. I'm not able to pick up most of the output from Hospital, but I try to get something now and again as I'm frequently enamored with the curated artists and the packaging. With everything I had heard about Star, I bit the bullet and grabbed the special edition. I'm not altogether sure what I was expecting to hear on the 2CD but I was definitely not in the right headspace the first time I gave it a spin. I think that I had a certain expectation in my head of what I wanted it to sound like and got frustrated when the initial listening experience didn't line up with what I had imagined.
Further discussion with other listeners led to the suggestion that I should try it with headphones, which is what I did last night. I think letting go of my previous inhibitions helped me digest the material a little better. I could try to describe the audio experience for those who haven't heard but I wonder if that's counter-intuitive. Aside from that, I'm genuinely unsure I could give it a text description that would do it any semblance of justice. The liner notes tell the listener that this release is meant to be thought of as a complete and separate work from the rest of the artist's catalog, one that "anyone can understand" seemingly without prior exposure to the project's output. That seems a pretty cavalier use of the word "understand," as I personally understand very little about the album and what it "means," if anything.
One detail that has stuck with me is what sounds like an owl hooting in track 4, "Elephant Taken Apart Like a Car in the Snow and Reassembled Piece by Piece." Not a field recording, but what sounds like an effect from a keyboard in the shape of an owl. Similarly, the beginning and ending sounds on "The History of Elephants" sound like a synthesized approximation of elephants trumpeting. As the tracks progress (although they almost seem to regress if anything) I become more intrigued. Why these sounds and arrangement? What the fuck is all this text in the liner notes supposed to mean? Do I even like this?
I can't help wondering what I would think if I stumbled across this release on a random bandcamp page with no context. Would I have it in me to spend as much time with it as I have knowing it's from a very hyped artist on a seminal label like Hospital? I'm not sure, I would like to think I can take on most releases on their own terms, but listening to Elephant in the Snow challenged me on this notion. I find a lot of value in questioning my own perceptions, and albums like this can certainly have that effect, but only if you take them as they are, and leave your perceptions at the door. I think I will be able to appreciate this album more with some repeated listens, but I definitely wouldn't bring it with me to a desert island.
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by adult human »

htp_systems wrote: Tue Nov 07, 2023 11:03 am The liner notes tell the listener that this release is meant to be thought of as a complete and separate work from the rest of the artist's catalog, one that "anyone can understand" seemingly without prior exposure to the project's output.
Even as a totally vehement supporter and advocate of Star I'd disagree with this (btw I get the feeling that some/all of those liner notes are plundered from somewhere else. I could be wrong).

The beauty of this record is not only in its standalone qualities, which I believe are ample, but also in where it sits within his prior work. It's as though he's been able to completely crystalise his 'style' across the prior titles and push it into even more obscure, unusual places. It's a serious feat that the album delivers a kind of 'essence of Star' whilst maintaining all the degrees to that essence which call for bafflement and the unexpected.

I believe there is a lot of meaning or purpose to the more discernible sound sources, though experience tells me that these are probably impossible to decode. Rather, it'll be the case that there is through line in the approach in his head which may or may not contain some sort of personal significance. It's not really stuff anyone could hope to clock on to without asking but its existence causes the artist to produce something shaped a particular way which is in turn intriguing to listen to.

Appreciate this review a lot. I think the album is fantastic but again, I come from a place of being totally sold on what this project has done and represents so have my own biases in there.
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Capers
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by Capers »

I think all Star releases have been rather baffling in their own ways. Knowing the man a bit makes them slightly less so though. Not that they'll ever be easy to describe or understand (as if there was some message to be deciphered), but they're very much "him".

As for this 2CD, what's new or at least rare in a noise context that he brings to the table here is a warm breezy sun-tanned pastel-colored feel, I think, which I very much associate with early house music. It's in the sound and in his very hands-on way of looping music samples etc. It's a rather romantic album to me, and a happy one. I like it alot.
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by Calling All Runaways »

adult human wrote: Thu Nov 09, 2023 2:21 pm
htp_systems wrote: Tue Nov 07, 2023 11:03 am The liner notes tell the listener that this release is meant to be thought of as a complete and separate work from the rest of the artist's catalog, one that "anyone can understand" seemingly without prior exposure to the project's output.
Even as a totally vehement supporter and advocate of Star I'd disagree with this (btw I get the feeling that some/all of those liner notes are plundered from somewhere else. I could be wrong).

The beauty of this record is not only in its standalone qualities, which I believe are ample, but also in where it sits within his prior work. It's as though he's been able to completely crystalise his 'style' across the prior titles and push it into even more obscure, unusual places. It's a serious feat that the album delivers a kind of 'essence of Star' whilst maintaining all the degrees to that essence which call for bafflement and the unexpected.

I believe there is a lot of meaning or purpose to the more discernible sound sources, though experience tells me that these are probably impossible to decode. Rather, it'll be the case that there is through line in the approach in his head which may or may not contain some sort of personal significance. It's not really stuff anyone could hope to clock on to without asking but its existence causes the artist to produce something shaped a particular way which is in turn intriguing to listen to.

Appreciate this review a lot. I think the album is fantastic but again, I come from a place of being totally sold on what this project has done and represents so have my own biases in there.
Could you go more into detail about what exactly Star is about? I understand the tape loop aspect but I can’t help but think I’m missing way more context to what he’s doing and what he’s trying to accomplish. For reference I enjoy the album, albeit I’m incredibly confused by it, which might be the point.
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by adult human »

Calling All Runaways wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 10:21 pm Could you go more into detail about what exactly Star is about? I understand the tape loop aspect but I can’t help but think I’m missing way more context to what he’s doing and what he’s trying to accomplish. For reference I enjoy the album, albeit I’m incredibly confused by it, which might be the point.
I don't think it's right to say that Star is a project which is 'about' things and if I'm referring to it as such it's only as a shorthand way to refer to a series of sonic and presentational choices that I think carry across the recordings. There is a sense that each given release holds themes within it through the images, titles and some of the sound sources but I don't think there'd ever be a way to fully understand what those are without asking because they're purposefully obscure and buried. I don't think it's some narrative thing where if you uncover the right clues you'll find 'the answer'. I don't think the point of it is to communicate anything too specifically. Instead I think that this probably serves the artist more, making for a means of approaching the work that is meaningful to them but results in an end product for us that is just to be seen and heard for whatever we take it to be. For those of us who care about it enough we might find little references and signals toward things that are interesting but I don't think that means we've uncovered 'the answer' or anything like that. And even if we did, I don't think it's much more than the back story of what the artist was interested in or thinking about whilst making the record.

Even so, I think there are some 'signature' sonic approaches that carry across all the records which find ultimate expression in EITS - rough, somewhat blunt force noise that flirts with genuinely unentertaining and uncomfortable listening, use of discernible samples or sources that perhaps invite us to wonder why the fuck they're in there, sequences of tracks that focus only on one or two things at once and don't skip around between different approaches too much...

The main thing that attracts me to the project is its clear use of Noise as an art form which can encompass and be informed by all kinds of different art & media. It's aiming for something a bit more than to just be an expression of 'Noise culture' whilst still being fully informed by this world. Nothing more or less than what Noise in all its best instances does anyway imo. In some ways Star is an attractive prospect to me only because of how uncreative a lot of other approaches to Noise are.
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by mouthsagape »

really appreciate the discussion in this thread. i'd been putting off listening to this for a while due to the somewhat daunting length but i threw it on after reading everyone's thoughts here and i'm glad i finally took the time to engage with it. certainly a headphone album if i've ever heard one. i am having a somewhat different problem than the one outlined in the original post, where i am finding the sound itself quite engaging but am having a difficult time reconciling the themes. it seems like the juxtaposition of really disparate images and concepts is very much part of the star oeuvre (i see what you all mean re: the liner notes) but i'm just struggling to fit everything together conceptually. though perhaps that's part of the charm. pleasant warm listening to be sure but definitely not "easy."
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Re: Star - Elephant in the Snow (2CD) - Hospital Productions

Post by papp diin »

I've seen a lot of people react to the idiosyncracities and unconventional qualities of this record with "modern lingo" and contexts such as "shitposting" and whatnot... To me, this record is pure surrealism! Not like David Lynch-type surrealism, but the earliest Andre Breton-type surrealism. I think noisers generally gravitate more towards the more concrete dada approach of doing it, but what Star has done here is to make it feel more like a vivid dream. I think it's fantastic.
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