Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A review of "The BQE"

Sufjan Stevens has outdone himself once again with his latest release. Though the inception of The BQE may have been a simple project commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it has snowballed into something more. This is a masterpiece that surpasses all notions and boundaries of what one would expect from a current artist. Perhaps that’s the magic of Sufjan Stevens; we know his sound, but with each release he does something new. One can never know what to fully expect from this man.

As I sit hear listening to the album, I can’t help but envision Sufjan on stage surrounded by a symphony in a beautiful concert hall. The explosions of sound, the arrangement of each instrument—it is all too brilliant. Some pieces are dark and brooding (Interlude I: Dream Sequence in Subi Circumnavigation), while others are lighthearted and playful- calling to mind paintings from the Rococo era (“Movement III: Linear Tableau with Intersecting Surprise”). However, Stevens does not end the musical journey in the 1700s. There is a sense of modernity when electronic elements are showcased in the appropriately titled “Movement IV: Traffic Shock”, with all the samples and sounds creating a mental image of frenzy and confusion, truly mirroring “the BQE’s inexplicable twists and turns,” as Stevens goes on to explain in the accompanying comic book. (Yes, a comic book!)

The ending track, “Prelude: Critical Mass” is a delicate and moving piece. There is a sense of serenity; a stillness and sadness that stirs the soul. It is the most perfect and calm way to end a tumultuous journey through the BQE (and when I say tumultuous, do not think of the negative dictionary definition, for the tumult presented on this album is nothing but the best kind of uproar and loudness. The sounds shift from heavy to light, from calm to bellicose, and that is what I am trying to capture). The BQE is a road that begs to be traveled down again and again.

This album is easily one of the best that I have had the pleasure of listening to in 2009.

You can purchase the album in various forms through Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Posted by Gabrielle Costa

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