The title “Stolen Years” likely refers to the the fact that years, from Anduin, were stolen. Quite literally though, a house burglary commited against poor Jonathan Lee (mastermind behind the audio/visual workings of Anduin, to whom this post is most humbly dedicated) forced years of musical sketches and ideas to go headlong with the wind as files and gear were rudely taken from their owner. But instead of sulking around in a pit of despair, Lee (being the imaginitave talent he most obviously is) perservered. And he did so by… well, I guess by sulking in a pit of dispair to a degree. Indeed, Stolen Years is dour and downcast in feel for the most part, music that exists within the deepest depths that the caverns of the subconscious must have; dark, wide, misty, murky and spooky beyond belief. But that doesn't mean it sacrifices in the way of beauty.
Beyond the tragedy of the record's backstory and the grey clouds that hover over the music's hollow mix lies its true genius. Perhaps—and this is of course speculation—but perhaps losing all of those years of experiments, sounds and songs left Anduin with the perfectly lean palate with which to construct this masterpiece. Stolen Years represents the scraps from previous works refigured into exciting new forms, coming together into a piece that patchworks various moments of Lee's life and flips through like pages of a book, painting vibrantly vivid images and evoking deep emotional connections with a sparse set of tools. Most of the imagery aspects of the record comes from the electro-acoustic noise play that has such a prominent role in Anduin's music—Footsteps creep across wooden floorboards, a chain drags along the ground, a child swings alone in a playground on a moonlit night, or a broom scrapes its way across a dusty room. Sometimes these elements twist and warp themselves into odd rhythms, gently moving these pieces along in measured lurches. Elsewhere, cavernous baritones waver out of stacked synths in the bass, orchestral textures sing and soar overhead and some truly beautiful saxophone and flute solos float their way across the breadth of the album, generously (and excellently) contributed by jazz musician Jimmy Ghaphery.
Yes, Anduin wields a story here. Even if you can't make out the plot or recognize the various characters, the mise en scene seems to be the key—the record's scenery, its setting. It's all about the environment and the tone, one of a certain chilliness and tenseness that is so entrancing and magnetic. It's dimly lit, cold and dreary, softly dreamy and at times even thrilling. It has the proverbial haunt, it corners the listener into the bottomless solitude of close headphone listening, surrounding the stereo space from all sides. And it's beautifully packaged (something I don't often say of CD releases these days), a disc tucked nicely away in a folded cover with amazing hand-screened inserts (one for each track). Mastered by Lawrence English, etc., etc. The point is that this one comes highly recommended. One of the year's finest recordings yet.