Some people just have way too much time on their hands. The pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, has led us all to find new hobbies, but very few of those hobbies have crossed over with our day jobs. Sufjan Stevens, it seems, has gotten so into spirituality that he’s dedicated an entire five-album collection to inner thought: Convocations.
Saying that Stevens has gotten into spirituality recently actually belies the fact that he’s been a very public spiritual figure for nearly twenty years. 2001’s Enjoy Your Rabbit and 2004’s Seven Swans are basically one step removed from being Contemporary Christian Music, and the themes of rebirth, faith, and ascension have been prevalent in pretty much all his work. His last album was literally called The Ascension. So it’s not like singing about capital-G God and divine spirits is anything new for the artist.
Another noted inspiration for Stevens was the death of his biological father, Rasjid Stevens. Although his stepfather Lowell Brams has had a more obvious effect on his career, having helped Sufjan form the label Asthmatic Kitty and providing much of the basis behind the beautifully heartbreaking Carrie & Lowell, which would be Stevens greatest work had he not released his magnum opus Illinois, Rasjid still provided quite a bit of inspiration himself.
‘Lamentation II’ largely takes after the style that Sufjan embraced on The Ascension: dense, electronic music that finds Stevens fully indebted to Wendy Carlos and Brian Eno before him. It’s an ambient and completely instrumental track that… falls kind of flat. I’m sure it makes sense within the project as a whole, but this song, along with the first volume Meditations, doesn’t utilise Stevens’ greatest asset: his angelic voice. It’s music for a deeper mindset and is terribly ornate, but it’s fairly bland without the comfort of Stevens’ voice to guide us through the meditations.
Check out the video for ‘Lamentation II’ down below. All of Convocations will be released on May 6th.