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CD Album 2003 | Silber 024
9 tracks, 59 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~107 megs))
: Listen to the track The Daylight and the Sun
: More info
track listing: a beautiful night sky, the daylight and the sun, to shine on him one last time, he had the smell of wyoming sagebrush, and the scent of the trees, from the snowy range, our lives will never be the same, we miss matt terribly, we think of him all the time, we miss matt terribly (reprise)
The liner notes for If Thousands' Lullaby includes the decidedly non-Freedom Rock instruction, "Please listen to this recording at as low a volume as possible to induce & aid in slumber." It reminds me of the story I read somewhere where Brian Eno fell asleep during another musician's performance and told him afterwards that falling asleep wasn't an insult but the highest compliment he could pay. There's music for dancing, music for traveling, and yes, music for sleeping. My Bloody Valentine, Windy and Carl, Galaxie 500, Miles Davis' In a Silent Way, the extended jams in the middle of Jimi Hendrix's Live at Winterland . . . this is the music I take naps to, music that has the unique ability to carry me off into the far-off land of dreams. If Thousands' album is poised to join this select group. You don't call an album Lullaby unless you mean it, and they do.
    I don't know how cold it gets in Duluth, Minnesota, but I imagine the temperatures get low enough to make you want to live in a permanent huddle somewhere with good heating. Lullaby was recorded in Duluth in May, so the cold presumably wasn't a factor, yet the album still has that aura of a band holing themselves inside for a while and diving headlong into their music in an attempt to capture a certain mood. From the album's start, where silence slowly gives way to gently quivering keyboards and hovering guitar, through to its end, the music floats along like a delicate fog of gorgeous noise. Christian McShane and Aaron Molina, the duo that is If Thousands, use keyboards, guitars, and various unidentified noises to build up an atmosphere that is captivating, even as it carries you off to a state of near-sleep. The album is less a collection of songs than the distillation of an aura, the containment of a very particular essence. Though Lullaby is divided into nine tracks, they all run together as one piece and feel like one extended lullaby, the lovely yet ambiguous soundtrack to the varied dream-lives of its listeners.
    By sounding more like a large sonic cloud that's overhead than a song or batch of songs, Lullaby leaves room for the listener's emotional state. At various times, the music can feel comforting or ominous or filled with confusion, even when its tone hasn't really changed. For the length of the album, there are no abrupt changes, no major shifts in style, tempo or key. Yet the more you listen, the more involving it becomes, like a painting that seems simple yet moves you in different ways the longer you give yourself to it.
    Therein lies the perplexing nature of Lullaby. It's an album explicitly created for sleeping, yet the closer you listen the more you hear. We're told to listen at a low volume, yet the louder I turn it up the more I hear. Do you let the music float you off to sleep or listen with your eyes wide open? When you sleep, do you stop listening, or is it possible to do both? I fear that listeners who fall asleep too quickly may not even hear the voice on the second track, offering poetic words painting an oblique image of a fading cowboy, or notice that the song titles for the first batch of tracks are built from those words. They might completely black out before some of the album's prettiest and eeriest moments, which occur for me during the middle tracks, or miss feeling the way the music interacts in a stirring, unsettling way with the voice of a man describing his feelings about someone who has died, on track 8, "We Miss Matt Terribly". That allusion to loss and grieving meets the theme of sleep in a complicated way, reminding us of the final sleep, death. And Lullaby's cover art supports that theme, with what looks like aged or burned paper forming a peephole through which you glimpse the ruins of a building. Perhaps Lullaby wasn't created to help us fall asleep at night but to coax us into that ultimate sleep; perhaps this is funeral music. Remember what Nas said: "I never sleep / Cause sleep is the cousin of death". Lullaby might be the last album you listen to or it might lead to great dreams. Either way, you won't forget it.
~ Dave Heaton , PopMatters

Some albums bore you until you fall asleep. Others try too hard to get you there (they usually have spacy synths, bland classical guitars, streaming water sounds and subliminal messages). And then, a few lull you to sleep in the simplest ways. If Thousands want you to doze off. In fact, the booklet of {^Lullaby specifies that it should be listened to "as low a volume as possible to induce & aid in slumber" and the jewel case has a warning sticker: "May cause drowsiness." Using guitars and synthesizers, Aaron Molina and Christian McShane have recorded a continuous hour-long drone piece. It hovers in mid-air, just slightly out of reach, moving slowly and hypnotically. You can loose yourself in it -- loose track of time and space. At high volume, the hum of the musicians¹ amplifiers occasionally threatens to take over the quiet noise-based soundscapes, but if you follow the instructions it disappears, blending with the background noises of your surroundings. In the first and last thirds of the album, someone steps up to the microphone and speaks softly. The echo effect makes it very difficult to hear (even more if you have decided to listen at low volume), but in track eight the message, repeated over and over, is clear: "Our lives will never be the same / We miss Matt terribly / We think of him all the time." It gives the pieces a note of sorrow and all of a sudden what sounded like an exercise in experimental slumber music turns to a new kind of elegy.
~ François Couture, All-Music Guide

To the uninitiated, Lullaby can be a long, drawn-out drone symphony stretched ad infinitum, ad nauseam, requiring attention-span endurance, much like listening to a 24-plus-hour Mahler marathon or raptly watching the paint dry on the wall. On the other hand, however, this follow-up to 2002's Candice Recorder may be an all-natural sedative as potent as a strong dose of Ambien.
As an exercise in complete yet controlled abandonment, If Thousands is an ambient synth-saturated free-form sound sculpting resulting from an unlikely cooperation of the classically trained vocalist and guitarist Christian McShane and punk bassist Aaron Molina, based out of Duluth, Minnesota (also the home of the brave Low), whose hibernation-inducing arctic winters seem to spawn snorecore creations. By learning entirely new families of instruments outside their normal repertoire, McShane and Molina give way to endless possibilities to sound placement—twelve mics were employed during recording.
To give a complete picture of If Thousands, imagine a more narcoleptic Flying Saucer Attack and Windy & Carl getting their crash-course education in the conservatory halls, pretty knee-deep in Philip Glass-type incrementalism. That said, McShane hasn't really ditched his classical pedigree: the entire album is a whole musical entity broken up in suite-like sections—distorted sonata form, if you will. The D-note pedal point serves as a seamless running thread from the first track to the closing number.
For those who are willing to be sunk deep into the abyss of shredded samples, loops, and noises, If Thousands makes the journey into blissful nothingness all the more pleasant.
~ Nancy Hutagalung, Losing Today

While the music on If Thousands’ second album is subtle, its marketing is anything but. The CD has a “may cause drowsiness” sticker – the kind that’s normally found on pill bottles. Just like some rock bands’ liner notes instruct you to “turn it up!” the booklet of Lullaby recommends a low volume “to induce & aid in slumber.” The promo sheet drives this point home, even quoting a review that compared the group to a warm blanket.
While Aaron Molina and Christian McShane started If Thousands as an experiment, Lullaby fits in perfectly with well-established bands such as Landing and Stars of the Lid. Rarely does the album rise above a whisper-thin wash of keyboard drones. (As Molina is credited with guitars and drums, one wonders just how quietly those parts were mixed into the final product, if they remain at all.) Compressed vocals appear early in the album, but they disappear within minutes and are seldom heard again; similarly, keyboards occasionally flourish to what can only be called “full volume,” but just for a fleeting moment.
What’s really amazing is that the entire album was recorded live in a single take with no overdubs. Twelve microphones were set up around the room, while McShane and Molina meandered without any apparent structural guidelines for a full hour.
If Thousands set out to create an audio sleep aid; they’ve succeeded, and that’s a compliment. Take it however you want, I suppose, but Lullaby will help you fall asleep if you let it.
~ Paul J. Lombardi, Action Man

There's a warning sticker affixed to the case of Lullaby that states "May Cause Drowsiness - Use Care When Operating A Car Or Dangerous Machinery". Now normally, that would be the kiss of death for most bands. But It feels incredibly appropriate when you start taking in If Thousands' latest effort. There's certainly a drowsy feel that permeates the nearly 60 minutes on this disc, and one that constantly remains inviting throughout countless listens.
Based out of Duluth, Minnesota (those Minnesota winters must be to blame for the state's crop of somnambulistic-oriented bands: Low, Best Boy Electric, Rivulets, etc.), If Thousands is the duo of Aaron Molina and Christian McShane. At first, the pairing of a classically trained vocalist and bassist from punk bands would seem like the last thing to work. At the very least, it would produce music very different than what If Thousands create. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense, as if the duo's backgrounds sort of cancel eachother out and open up new avenues and depths.
And believe me, if there's one thing that Lullaby has in spades, it's depth. The core of Lullaby is a seemingly endless grey drone, drenching the CD in static like a line of rainy clouds on the horizon. But as with the best drone music, it's far from static, but rather moves and changes like fog as it seeps down into the valleys as evening approaches. This is most likely due to the manner in which the album was recorded. Rather than mic the instruments, the recording room was set up with 12 microphones strategically placed "to give the listener a real sense of spatial sonic distinction". In other words, it worked.
Buried deep within that "spatial sonic distinction" are Molina and McShane, making all sorts of noise with what I assume are battered guitars, analog synths with their transistors torn out, and other assorted noisemakers. You get the feeling that if you could just peel back the layers of noise, you could figure out what the duo is doing. But as it stands, you're left with the only vaguest impressions.
Whenever something does break through, such as the sad Moog on "And The Scent Of The Trees" or the static-riddled spoken word that opens and closes the album, it feels like a discovery. But more often than not, the duo is content to hide behind the cloud and merely tickle your consciousness with bizarre little noises, intriguing loops, and infinitely long reverberations.
The duo recommends that you play this album at as low a volume as possible, using it as a sleeping aid. But for me, the ultimate test of a drone record is if it stands up to both passive and active listening. If I can find the record as enthralling when I listen to it at work as it is when I drift off to sleep, then that's some good drone. Lullaby meets both of those criteria, and then some.
~ Jason Morehead, Opuszine

From Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby through New Age mystics Aeoliah and Michel Genest on up to the current crop of snorecore enthusiasts like Windy & Carl and Stars of the Lid, artists have been recreating the sonic equivalent of sleeping brainwaves for many years. (For those of you looking for a more familiar reference point, imagine the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" going on for an hour without Gilmour's classic four-note guitar break interrupting the flow.) Silber's own Aarktica had a stunning entry into the genre with No Solace in Sleep a few years back, and they return to the sleep-inducing centerstage with this release. In fact, If Thousands (the Duluth-based duo of Aaron Molina and Christian McShane) even include the following suggestion in their liners: "Please listen to this recording at as low a volume as possible to induce & aid in slumber." Another nice touch is the medical warning sticker, "May cause drowsiness; alcohol may increase this effect" on the jewel case! The resulting subtle background hum (one lengthy track with index points) carries the listener on a magic carpet ride through dreamland, with the occasional, distant, barely audible short story narration ("The Daylight and The Sun") and the mantric repetitive lyric of "We miss Matt terribly."
Another Floydian reference is the sonar bleeps (from "Echoes") that quietly drift into the end of "He Had the Smell of Wyoming Sagebrush." And for a visual reference point to this amazing sonic exploration of inner space, imagine if in that old 60s classic sci-fi film "Fantastic Voyage," the scientists had been inserted into your temporal lobe and traversed the synapses in your brain exploring your unconsciousness in an experiment to discover the source of your dreams. That's one trip I'd like to take and If Thousands provide the spaceship. Like floating in amniotic fluid, kids from 96 days to 96 years will be soothed into a somnambulistic state of slumber—the perfect sleep aid, whether you're putting grandma or the new born down for the night.
~ Jeff Penczak, Fakejazz

This Minnesota duo creates a nice bit of atmospheric drone utilizing guitar, bass, keys, and other random noises. Although there are ten tracks listed on the back Lullaby plays as one piece, and has simply been tracked into ten parts for ease of jumping around, maybe for radio play? Apparently they decided to abandon their familiar instruments and switch to instruments they had no experience playing in order to come up with new and fresh approaches to drone making. Did they succeed? Well, I have heard a boat load of “dronescape” records over the last five years or so, and I can not really say that what If Thousands presents here really sounds all that much different from much of the Kranky Records discography. It starts out with a gently swelling tone, layers gradually get added on, some distant, echoed voice appears, then fades away. Like most ambient records, it doesn’t really travel to far from the starting point, but that really isn’t the point with this kind of stuff is it? Lullaby is a very pleasant listen, it holds up quite well to repeated bath tub/couch/recliner/sleep listens. What more is there really? If you dig ambient drones you will like this.
~ Brian Faulkner, Aural Innovations

If Thousands' Lullaby album bears the note, "Please listen to this recording at as low a volume as possible to induce & aid in slumber." That's no ordinary warning, but If Thousands is not an ordinary band. Christian McShane and Aaron Molina have both played in other bands, yet for If Thousands they decided to purposefully play instruments they weren't skilled at, to try to explore the ways that inexperience can lead to brilliant surprises. Though McShane mostly plays keyboards for the group, and Molina mostly guitars, both also use whatever they can find to make unusual and unexpected sounds. Their Yellowstone album includes "children's instruments, walkie talkies, circuit benders, samplers, noises" among the instruments they used. Their vision of music seems to include whatever they can find that works. And that approach does work. In the last few months, they've released two albums, each with its own mood but both fantastic. Lullaby (Silber Records) is exactly that, an hourlong instrumental trip through gentle and dreamy sounds. Yet it's also much more, as established early on by the way a man reading a melancholy poem is looped over and over. Their Yellowstone (Chairkickers Music) album is similar in its use of repetition, mysterious sounds and an overwhelmingly contemplative atmosphere, yet it is also filled with surprises. There's even vocals on a few songs, one a haunting cover of Joy Division's "Isolation." On both albums, what's especially striking is the duo's ability to pull you into their world, to immerse you in a mood. Their music has true presence; their anything-goes, open-ended approach to music is something music fans should be grateful for.
~ Dave Heaton, Erasing Clouds

If Thousands second album comes with a sticker stating, "May cause drowsiness.  Alcohol may intensify this effect.  Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery."  If that doesn't tell you what you're in for, maybe the title Lullaby or track titles such as "A Beautiful Night Sky," "From the Snowy Range," & "The Daylight & the Sun" will.  If not I'll tell you anyway so feel free to read on.  The Minnesota-based duo of Aaron Molina (guitars, vocals, drums, & noises) & Christian McShane (keyboards, Moog, theremin, samples, loops, & noises) constructs a minimal sound that immediately has my eyes flickering toward a slowly moving curtain in an open window.  The album has that sort of meditative effect, & I have no problem what so ever seeing people falling asleep to this record, & I don't mean that as a criticism in anyway.  On the contrary it's darkly serene tones are destined to create some amazing dreams, & if there ever was a safe way into the unconscious, the sounds of Lullaby might very well be the perfect choice.  Could easily be filed right next to people like Stars of the Lid & label-mate Aarktica, & if that's not a compliment I'm not sure what is.
~ Mats Gustafson, The Broken Face