After numerous excellent releases as part of Stars of the Lid, Brian McBride takes an excellent solo bow with When the Detail Lost Its Freedom, as serenely beautiful as his past work would show, but with its own distinct character. Rather than lengthy washes of psychedelic ambient guitar, McBride, using a sampler as the key instrument, here creates more focused, orchestrated songs with the help of a variety of guests, resulting in compositions that have similar emotional impact but in a different vein. Guitar drones and echoes certainly play key roles, but generally as part of a larger structure -- thus the recurrent four-note melody in "A Gathering to Lead Me When You're Gone" or the rigorously structured cycle of sound on "Retenir," sound waves constantly approaching and retreating like their beach-bound counterparts in the ocean. Lead track "Overture (For Other Halfs)" sets the tone, feeling akin to Aphex Twin's high-church hush on Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 as performed for an elegiac sunset, with the assistance of heavily treated violin parts from Eden Batki to add even more depth and beauty. Its uninterrupted flow into the following "Piano ABG" shows that the gentle ambition of McBride in terms of extended composition remains intact, and from there When the Detail makes its steady, captivating way. Songs like the breathtaking "The Guilt of Uncomplicated Thoughts," a lush combination of everything from understated trumpet to an exultant, aspiring melody, feel like messages from some lost, distant landscape. There's even singing at points -- McBride himself, as well as two separate female vocalists -- which further adds to the unexpected pleasures of this striking album.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett