Sufjan Stevens has released the second album, Lamentations, as part of his five LP collection Convocations.
The collection is a series of ambient tracks that attempt to soundtrack the anxiety and tension that has accompanied the past year and the uneasiness that will continue to permeate well into the future. While it’s true that there is a palpable friction in the synthetic backing tracks, there are also moments of beauty and light to be found as well.
Each song has a different mood and feeling attached to it. Some are slower with sparse arrangements and a pronounced focus on melody, others are sonic tapestries that prioritise reverb-laden effects and experimentation. On some of the more fully-fleshed out songs, you can almost hear the basis for what could have been fascinating tracks on a future Stevens album, one that would hold similarities to his electronic work on The Age of Adz, Enjoy Your Rabbit, or The Ascension. But it’s not to be.
Stevens commits fully to the fugacious experience. Just as you key into a song’s musical idea, it falls and fades away. Perhaps that’s the meta-narrative, or even the surface level narrative, for Stevens on the collection: nothing is solid, everything falls away. Perhaps as a whole, the five-volume collection will paint a richer and more fully fleshed-out picture of what Stevens is attempting to get at, but in bits and pieces, it presents a frustratingly vague final product from a musician who has been so consistently purposeful in his career.
It’s all well and good, but it’s a minor work from a major artist: a blip on the radar that is unlikely to invoke and inspire the way his other work does. While it’s true that Stevens never half-asses anything, whether it’s albums or features or film soundtrack work, it’s also true that these instrumental pieces have felt like his most inconsequential work to date. Esoteric, ephemeral, and beautifully transient, yes, but inconsequential.
Listen to Lamentations down below. The next volume of the series, Revelations, will be released on April 22nd.