Sufjan Stevens – All Delight People EP
2010, Asthmatic Kitty Records
2010, Asthmatic Kitty Records
Look up the world eclectic in the dictionary and you’re likely to find a picture of Sufjan Stevens. Stevens is truly a jack-of-all-trades musically; a multi-instrumentalist who is fearless in the face of changes in genre, meter and style. Stevens’ musical output is prodigious, accounting for ten albums in eleven years as well as appearances on numerous compilations. While working toward the release of his newest album The Age Of Adz, Stevens was moved by his muse to release the All Delighted People EP in 2010, an intriguing and elaborate musical sidebar that makes the label “dreamy folk-pop” obsolete.
All Delighted People opens with the title track, and eleven minute-plus concoction of dreamy post-pop with electronic orchestration. Stevens writes in an incredibly complex rock symphony style while infusing lyrical references drawn directly from Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence”. “Enchanting Ghost” is eclectic, shoe-gaze dream folk. There’s an almost impressionistic, run-on style in the song construction, blending disparate melodic parts into a musical whole. Stevens seems to have a talent for taking musical components that shouldn’t work together and turning them into something you would never have imagined. “Heirloom” plays more to the ethereal folk side, done in a Simon & Garfunkel style with modern accoutrements.
“From The Mouth Of Gabriel” ventures into Stevens’ electronic musical proclivities, but is centered around what sounds like a children’s tinkling piano and layered vocal harmonies. The result is charming and pretty and obscure. “The Owl And The Tanager” plays like a run-on fable told in a loose musical format. The vocal harmonies here are something quite beautiful here, and highlight the haunting nature of the song. “All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version) takes a divergent path to the opening track, substituting rolling guitars for the electronic dress-up applied to the opening track. The classic rock version is a bit more coherent than the original, but also loses some of the magical complexity in the process. “Arnika” sounds like a suicide note in song. The subject here is weary and bereft of hope; delivering a last soliloquy over a stilted banjo with layered instrumentation and chanting vocals accompanying the creak of a rope. All Delight People closes with “Djohariah”, an undulating electronic/organic experience that sounds simultaneously structured and random. There’s an element of genius playing about between the lines here.
Sufjan Stevens has built a career out of musical exploration and experimentation. The All Delighted People EP is no exception. The musical and emotionally complexities that roil about beneath the surface of the songs presented here could be the EP’s downfall, but it is the singular genius of Sufjan Stevens to create magic out of chaos. Stevens finds beauty in even the most disparate moments of human existence, blending history, faith and insight into arrangements that are as messy, and ultimately beautiful, as life itself. All Delighted People is truly art mirroring life.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)