What does it sound like?:
I wasn’t too sure what exactly to expect from this collaboration between Sufjan Stevens, classical composer Nico Muhly, The National guitarist Bryce Dessner and percussion and beats master James McAlister. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by what they’ve come up with in this long concept piece inspired by the planets and various other celestial bodies.
This started as a live piece performed a handful of times in 2012, and recordings from then have been combined with later studio additions, resulting in what is actually a surprisingly prog sounding albums at times. There are often disparate elements at play here, reflecting the differing backgrounds of the composers – at times these gel beautifully to produce some wonderful moments, although at other times there does seem to be rather a clash of cultures with the varying influences fighting against each other. Nevertheless, when it works, such as on the gorgeous Pluto or the lengthy Earth, it works very well indeed, bringing together the best of each contributors individual musical strengths. For me, the album’s weakest point is the instrumental section of Black Energy and Sun halfway through proceedings, where things do rather lose momentum. Luckily things soon pick up again, and the album continues on its celestial journey, ending on an upbeat note with the light, bright, twinkling Mercury.
What does it all *mean*?
An interesting idea and a bold attempt by these four talented musicians to do something a little different – they don’t always achieve their ambition ,but when it does reach the heights it aspires to this album produces some beautiful, even sublime, moments.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Fans of Sufjan Stevens will obviously want to hear this, but fans of prog might also want to check this out, as indeed should anyone who is prepared to listen with an open mind and experience the diverse pallette of styles and influences on display here.