Album Review: Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams - 'Aporia'

Heavily influenced by psychedelia and new-age styles, Aporia is a fascinating insight into the power of wordless music.

Despite being a massive stylistic shift, Aporia should not be seen as a massive surprise. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sufjan Stevens has been credited throughout his career for being an experimental, pioneering and limitless artist, which is what has given him so much notoriety and recognition. However, even for an artist like Stevens, Aporia is a huge step in a different direction.

Created as a result of New York jamming sessions alongside his step-father Lowell Brams, Stevens creates a thoughtful, melancholic and interpretative 21-song album. Influenced by new-age styles, the album revolves around the keyboards and synthesisers, infusing these two core instruments with other more unconventional electronic-based sounds.

"Not merely unpolished ideas, but systematic and purposeful in their creation of a soulful and innovative artform."

The fascinating element of the album is the story it tells. The ambiguity and enchanting nature of the musical content gives the listener the chance to interpret the meaning of each song. Stevens claims that the album tells the story of mentorship, stewardship and coming of age, as he claims that the album is symbolic of Stevens’ relationship with Brams as an artist, with the album mirroring Brams’ retirement.

Stevens and step-father Brams. Image courtesy of DIY.

Aporia is fundamentally both reflective and introspective, as Stevens incorporates the themes of his own personal tragedies, mixed with his thoughts on the complexities of the world around him, all in the vicinity of one philosophical record.

"In their jamming sessions, '10 percent was magic'. Aporia is certainly that 10%."

The album is thought-provoking, technically excellent and extremely well-produced. Whilst Stevens insists that the songs on the album were a result of jamming, the product appears to be more intricate and substantial, which is what gives the album such an interesting undertone. Throughout there is an improvised and raw tone, yet the quality of production and the infusion of these songs together highlight that these are not merely unpolished ideas, but systematic and purposeful in their creation of a soulful and innovative artform.

Perhaps this is Stevens not giving himself and Brams enough credit, but in an interview he did draw upon the fact that in their jamming sessions, “10 percent was magic”. Aporia is certainly that 10%. In these times of uncertainty, Stevens and Brams made the decision to bring the release of the album forward rather than delaying it. It was, in no uncertain terms, a brilliant outcome for his fans. A fine piece of work, and one of Steven’s best efforts in years.