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Alternative & Indie - Released September 24, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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After having the promise of post-pandemic hope seemingly pulled out from under the world like a cheap rug, most of us could do with a balm. Songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine deliver the goods in the form of a truly comforting diversion. Stevens, of course, loves a concept album: He's made them about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Michigan and Illinois, and his mother's tragic life and death. This time, he teams with lo-fi California singer-songwriter De Augustine, who has made two albums for Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty label. The theme is philosophical musings on movies, ranging from Old Hollywood (All About Eve) to monster flicks (The Thing), horror (Hellraiser III, Night of the Living Dead), modern classics (She's Gotta Have It, Silence of the Lambs; the album is dedicated to director Jonathan Demme who died in 2017), even action (Point Break). Opener "Reach Out"—based on director Wim Wenders' fantasy Wings of Desire—is a mindbender: Is this sublime harmony and gentle guitar Simon & Garfunkel circa 1965? Then there’s the twee and wistful, almost medieval folk of “Olympus” whose chanted “There’s no place like home” chorus might make you think The Wizard of Oz but is, in fact, based on Clash of the Titans and focuses on the love story of Perseus and Andromeda: "It's the light on your hand/ It's the touch of my wristband." The magical land instead informs the dreamy "Back to Oz" although the source material here is the 1985 Fairuza Balk-starring sequel Return to Oz; it could almost pass for a Tame Impala song with twinkling melody, smooth guitar and the "get it right, follow my heart" message. Said De Augustine: "In the film, Dorothy returns to the world of Oz to find its landscape in ruins and its citizens frozen in stone. Only she can find the ruby slippers and return peace to Oz. Only we can save ourselves, but we first have to remember who we truly are." He and Stevens approached the songwriting process with a sense of shoshin—the Zen Buddhist concept (translating to "beginner's mind") that encourages a lack of preconceptions and an embrace of eagerness. Which is pretty good advice when you're using the movie "Bring It On Again"—not even the original, but the 2004 sequel—as fodder. "Fictional California" strips away the cheerleading story's pep and bop but keeps a sun-dappled feel and offers surprising insight: "I look alive but I feel so dead inside, I'm bleeding/ Gonna break a leg with a basket toss/ For the loss of my broken dreams." © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 8, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 10, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 7, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Convocations is a rare, original musical adventure. It brings together five movements or chapters, each an instrumental album with its own title: Meditations, Lamentations, Revelations, Celebrations and Incantations. In all, this work of exploration lasts around two and a half hours. Sufjan Stevens describes it as "a two-and-a-half-hour electronic/ambient mass for our present age of anxiety and dread." These 49 pieces communicate many different feelings, emotions and sensations. They draw inspiration from a range of different worlds, and take us from dream to dissonance, from repetition to long calm stretches, from sounds of innocence to sounds of perversion: Stevens is leading us on a true interior voyage. These five states reflect the moods that we can go through in our lives. They cycle through the successive thoughts and moods that fluctuate within our hearts, sometimes subconsciously. This is what makes Stevens' project fascinating and of relevance for the present day: but there is no hiding the historical influences which are at work here, in particular figures from the 1970s such as Brian Eno, Klaus Schulze, Morton Subotnick, or Philip Glass and Steve Reich. The structure of sounds and emotions undergirding this work resembles a cathedral. Indeed, the primary inspiration for this vast project was the death of the musician's father in September 2020, two days after the release of his album The Ascension. Convocations and its many offshoots are a response to events and an homage to a departed father. But above all, beyond even Stevens's own tragedy, they represent an attempt to create a work of art which is in dialogue with the idea of death (and this is not a first attempt: the artist recorded an album, Carrie & Lowell following the death of his mother in 2015). This way of approaching death as an absolute allows this project to go beyond Sufjan Stevens's personal drama and acquire a universal character. That universality comes across when we listen to this album: it touches the audience deep inside. This music can even enter our souls, if we want to let it, and if we give it our full attention (and yes, that can be hard given the ubiquity of the mobile phone and its enthralling black mirror). We can also experience this work visually, on Sufjan Stevens's YouTube channel: he has uploaded all of Convocations and juxtaposed it with abstract moving paintings by Melissa Fuentes, animated by Otto Sánchez. Today, in spite of the increasing dematerialisation of music and the new possibilities that this offers, the format of the single still imposes a certain degree of conformity on how music is presented and sold. But with Convocations, Sufjan Stevens has been able to reconnect with the utopias of the 1970s: with a vision of free music that exists first and foremost as a sensory and mental experience. © Yan Céh/Qobuz
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Folk - Released January 8, 2021 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Folk - Released December 10, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Christmas Music - Released October 30, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Folk - Released October 28, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Pop - Released October 27, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Pop - Released October 27, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Folk - Released October 21, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Electronic - Released September 25, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Is the album title The Ascension a reference to mountaineering or the Christian festival which celebrates Jesus’s ascension to heaven on the 40th day of Easter? Judging from the album cover which looks like a stain-glass window, you’d probably go for the latter. Though the first option seems equally valid; Sufjan Stevens’ eighth album takes you on an expedition. Be careful, it’s a long journey (15 tracks in 80 minutes) but the summits are worth it. On his moving previous album Carrie & Lowell (2015) the American musician chronicled the story of his sick mother on an acoustic guitar. Here, it’s a sick world he’s talking about: America in 2020, disillusionment, anxiety and dehumanisation. And desperate times call for desperate measures! The measures that Sufjan Stevens took are paradoxical: he made this album alone but orchestrated his songs like liturgical music. The main theme running through the album is his intimate voice. He sounds like a fallen angel, multiplying his voice into a choir of 150 Sufjan Stevens in white togas, layered over an electronic backdrop that goes from retro Vangelis-style ambient music to R’n’B, while exploring sounds that remind us of what Björk did in the 90s. The Ascension is a heavenly album of contemporary pop that’s been liberated by boundless technology. It’s not easy to take everything in at first, but after listening to this record a few times it might become difficult to stop. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 16, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Electronic - Released August 14, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Electronic - Released July 10, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Electronic - Released July 4, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Folk - Released May 8, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Pop - Released April 21, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty

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Folk - Released April 17, 2020 | Asthmatic Kitty