Per Aspera Ad Astra is an intriguing 1998 collaboration between tone-generating minimalists Stars of the Lid and line-drawing minimalist Jon McCafferty, the latter best-known in music circles for the cover of R.E.M.'s Green. After working on a series of paintings inspired by Stars of the Lid's 1995 debut (Music for Nitrous Oxide), McCafferty approached the duo with a collaboration in mind. The recording was created with plenty of McCafferty's work around for inspiration (and incorporated environmental samples of him painting), then the sleeve was prepared by McCafferty once he'd immersed himself in the album. Separated into two sides, Per Aspera Ad Astra reveals precious little of McCafferty's working habits; except for faint rustlings in the background and passing traffic, the environmental portion is whispery and thin. The concept does allow for a degree of context within Stars of the Lid's music, though, always a good thing when a recording is as ambient and ephemeral as this. Deep and warmly atmospheric, with (per usual) few nods toward traditional instrumentation, the pair focus on indie-space music except at the beginning of side two, when a string section provides a brief interruption.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush