“We Stared at the World” begins as a gentle song oscillating mysteriously between the electronic and acoustic. Front man Andy Sheppard fills our head with his conversational tenor. Listen attentively and you may begin to hear a variety of openings in the muted landscape, soft sounds implying larger worlds. Urgency arrives un-urgently: halfway through the song all sorts of things start happening, and the layers of instrumentation become more overtly fascinating and gratifying–guitar sounds, string sounds, a determined parade of clicking-clopping percussion sounds.
And, actual drum sounds. It took me a while for it to register but this halfway point is where we begin to hear what sound like real drums being smacked with real sticks. It’s a sound that I think gives the song such a satisfying climax, during the final iteration of the chorus, beginning around 2:47. There’s something about the various juxtapositions on display right here (the organic vs. the electronic, the gentle vocal vs. the percussive accompaniment, the melodic vs. the beat-driven) that together strike me as both powerful and poignant, but also fleeting: in 12 or 13 seconds everything’s gone, replaced by 30-plus seconds of ambient tinkling and droning, a kind of sonic after-image, rendering everything previously heard abruptly dreamlike. I like that a song ostensibly about staring turns out to be so indirect, even inscrutable.
Given the band’s name, Find The Others is an ironically elusive project. It appears to be a one-man operation (the album credits Sheppard as the only performer), even as the press photo features two people (and a blank third). Web resources identify Sheppard’s location alternately as either Toronto or British Columbia, so let’s at least assume he’s Canadian—even as he shipped himself off to Iceland to work with Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Rós, Björk, Feist, Nico Muhly, and then some). The end result was the album Empire of Time, on which you’ll find this song. The album was released back in April 2015; I heard it much later in the year via Insomnia Radio.