Nicholas Szczepanik: Please Stop Loving Me

Some releases overwhelm you with background detail; others offer next to nothing. Szczepanik's Please Stop Loving Me is clearly amongst the latter. In this case that makes some kind of perfect sense, however, as the album material—a single-track, forty-eight-minute ambient-drone composition—is about as purified as could be imagined. Working with a severely reduced palette, Szczepanik, a Maryland native and now Chicago resident, builds slowing shifting layers of sunblinded symphonic tones into a powerful long-form statement of emotional and majestic sweep. As his hymnal material strains upwards in repeated gestures of supplication, Please Stop Loving Me naturally calls to mind Stars of the Lid's recordings, even if Szczepanik's recording pushes Stars of the Lid's devotional sound to its seemingly asymptotic limit. Needless to say, there are no beats or formal rhythms present, just vaporous tonal masses that suggest some electronically sculpted conflation of synthetic strings and organ. The music maintains tension by constantly flirting with resolution but then, just as it appears about to do so, moving away from it via the intervention of another tonal shift; as a result, the listener is held in thrall despite the piece's extended length. That effect is pushed to an even further extreme during the recording's closing section when Szczepanik reduces the material to a single, wavering chord that hovers in place for minutes on end, building tension to an almost unbearable degree as it does so, before slowly fading away into nothingness. Calling Please Stop Loving Me immersive verges on ridiculous understatement, so dense and enveloping are its arcing masses of sound, and the uncommonly beautiful and haunting piece captured on this recording impresses as a further refinement of the work Szczepanik has issued to date, including 2009's The Chiasmus, and the 2010 follow-up, Dear Dad.

September 2011