SUFJAN STEVENS

Convocations

Asthmatic Kitty

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It may be tempting to reduce Convocations into a longform ambient anomaly within Sufjan Stevens' vast catalogue. It is, however, neither an anomaly nor entirely ambient. This is not a side project. From his numerous dance scores for New York City Ballet to instrumental albums such as Enjoy Your Rabbit, Aporia, and The BQE, Stevens spends at least half his working life making largely instrumental music, as he has for decades. And though the first ten pieces, dubbed "Meditations," unfurl as gorgeous states of reflective new-age grace, this is by no means an ambient enterprise. Stevens invokes the lessons of Morton Subotnick, Maryanne Amacher, Christian Fennesz, Brian Eno, and Wolfgang Voigt here. As musically erudite as it is emotionally experienced, Convocations can be dissonant, vertiginous, rhythmic, repetitive, urgent, or calm-that is, all the things we undergo when we inevitably live through loss, isolation, and anxiety.

Indeed, Convocations moves like a two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for our present times of difficulty, it's 49 tracks allowing for all these feelings to be felt. The album is divided into five sonic cycles, each replicating a different stage of mourning. "Meditations" work toward acceptance and resolution, of coming to terms with the day's news even if it stings. The subsequent "Lamentations" slink, sputter, and sometimes grind, as sadness transmutes to anger and back again. The rhythmic drift and glitchy strata of "Revelations" allow for confusion and catharsis, of asking just why the world or the heavens have wronged us. With it's bright tones, occasional sweeps of strings, and scrambled voices, "Celebrations" offers furtive bits of fondness, though the nostalgia is never far removed from the news that prompted it. The final nine "Incantations" are lessons for those of us who remain, gorgeous and galvanizing reminders that our time here is as limited as the possibilities for how we spend it are infinite. Convocations occasionally soothes and sometimes hurts; when it's done, you're left with a renewed sense of wonder for being here at all.

Tracklisting

  1. Meditation I
  2. Meditation II
  3. Meditation III
  4. Meditation IV
  5. Meditation V
  6. Meditation VI
  7. Meditation VII
  8. Meditation VIII
  9. Meditation IX
  10. Meditation X
  11. Lamentation I
  12. Lamentation II
  13. Lamentation III
  14. Lamentation IV
  15. Lamentation V
  16. Lamentation VI 
  17. Lamentation VII
  18. Lamentation VIII
  19. Lamentation IX
  20. Lamentation X
  21. Revelation I
  22. Revelation II
  23. Revelation III
  24. Revelation IV
  25. Revelation V
  26. Revelation VI
  27. Revelation VII
  28. Revelation VIII
  29. Revelation IX
  30. Revelation X
  31. Celebration I
  32. Celebration II
  33. Celebration III
  34. Celebration IV
  35. Celebration V
  36. Celebration VI
  37. Celebration VII
  38. Celebration VIII
  39. Celebration IX
  40. Celebration X
  41. Incantation I
  42. Incantation II
  43. Incantation III
  44. Incantation IV
  45. Incantation V
  46. Incantation VI
  47. Incantation VII
  48. Incantation VIII
  49. Incantation IX
  50. Incantation X