Monday, 1 November 2010

Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)

2010 sees one of Michigan's finest exports, Sufjan Stevens, release his latest offering in the form of Age of Adz, his first LP in five years.

Age of Adz kicks off with Futile Devices, an opening track reminiscent of previous works by Stevens in its acoustic simplicity. Layered with delicate piano tinkering and soft, echoing vocals, the song acts as a prelude to an album which abruptly transforms in style almost entirely.

The sensation of familiarity is short lived as we delve into a digital opus of scattered electronic beats and at times complex, multi layered arrangements. You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking you’ve been transported into a science fiction movie taking place in Stevens’ rambling subconscious, where he is pondering who would win in a fight between a legion of drum machines and a battalion of harps. Similarly, the dramatic and epic introduction of the album’s title track creates an atmosphere of harrowing tension, much like being chased by a digital Godzilla armed with a shrill violin.

Age of Adz will be the equivalent to musical marmite for any non Sufjan Stevens fans. Even still, existing fans may struggle with the disjointed nature of the record. Consistently inconsistent, Age of Adz has a quasi-industrial sound to it; with the mechanical slogging of beats and intermittent electronic blips simultaneously fighting for their place against fluttering organic squelches that are dotted throughout the record.

Much like the use of string arrangements, Age of Adz sees Stevens’ vocals frequently alternating between high and low whilst often being backed by a chorus of angelic voices. At times sensitive and warm, yet at other times Stevens’ is teetering on the verge of being haunting. The outcome adds even more character to an already densely layered creation of unorthodox traditions and contrasting styles.

At times a challenging listen, Stevens’ Age of Adz may require multiple listens to unearth the heart and soul of a record which clearly has depth and maturity buried within it.

Words : Neil Phillips

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