Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Sufjan Stevens is not above using a vocoder – the same digital technology that gives Kanye West and T-Pain their signature alien-smooth vocals. In fact, on his first original album since 2005’s Illinois, a collection of acoustic and banjo tracks backed by an orchestra, Stevens doesn’t shy away from the extraterrestrial or bizarre. You wouldn’t expect it from The Age of Adz’s sweet-as-a-cherry opener, “Futile Devices,” but the album swirls with complex, spastic electronic material. Three minutes into Adz, you hear the spaceships landing and laser guns hitting wall after wall of psychedelic, ominous synthesizers. The Michigan native adds tormented vocals, a brass section, choirs, and string instruments to his electronic compositions. It’s not his first time Stevens has gone beat-crazy; his second album, released 9 years ago, showcased his interest in electronic music in an even more extreme setting – without vocals. On Adz, he pushes artistic boundaries, at times challenging his listeners to open their minds to a style that stretches far from the quiet beauty of religious songs like “To Be Alone With You,” or the detailed storytelling of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” which both contain little more than an acoustic guitar. Stevens spends 25 minutes closing the album with the mind-bending “Impossible Soul.” It encapsulates everything the enigmatic songwriter has been striving for: beauty, manic musicianship, creative fusion, and most importantly, a sort of alienation – both sonic and literal.