* First pressing includes a bonus 7" with a non-LP track and the remix of 'Bloodlines' by Pan American * In early 2019, Dominic Appleton met up for lunch in London with 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell while the long-retired label boss was visiting from his home in New Mexico. At the time of their lunch Appleton had already agreed to work on an album with Italian composer and producer Matteo Uggeri but was suffering from a minor crisis of confidence. Thanks to Uggeri's persistence and Ivo-Watts' timely encouragement, Starlight And Still Air exists, their stunning, memorable, and downright addictive debut album as Starlight Assembly. Drawing on a foundation of song-oriented electronic music while hewing to no single genre, Starlight And Still Air conjures up a sound palette that is both redolent and familiar yet very much its own. It is accessible, yes, but its layered complexity, evocative lyrics, and deft use of field recordings will likewise keep listeners returning for more. After the skittering drums and detached rhythms that introduce opening track "Afternoon Update", the album settles into itself, unfurling a run of songs that could each be a standalone single yet also work perfectly together as a fully-realized song cycle.
Askew yet deeply grounded and personal, featuring beats that lock in over a bed of dubby low end, songs like "Cold Sun", "There Is No Crisis To Come" and "Look What We've Wasted" have a propulsive, move-your-body intensity that demand attention. "Still Air" sounds like a lost gem from the edges of trip-hop. "Looking For Clues", with its siren strings and relatable frustration, is taut and wiry. "The Long Goodbye" and "Bloodlines" move at a slower pace with their respective nods to partnership, mortality, and the familial. All ten tracks are centered around the melancholic, ambiguous lyrics of Dominic Appleton and his sonorous, instantly-recognizable voice. Starlight And Still Air begs for a long drive across troubled yet soothing landscapes; it treads the line between pop-forward and something more idiosyncratic and resistant to being captured.
Most of Starlight And Still Air was meticulously constructed by Uggeri, who built each track from a vast range of sounds from his network of collaborators, in most cases tapping into folders of recordings given to him by these friends: drums, cellos, trumpet, violins, bass, guitar, plus quite a lot of beats, electronics and field recordings created solely by himself. The fine tuning seemed nearly done after a few other final adjustments, including a new closing track built from a piano improvisation by Francesco Giannico.