With The Age Of Adz, Sufjan Stevens has laid down the gauntlet. Setting aside his grand plan of recording a series of songs to represent each of the fifty American states for the time being, he instead is challenging his audience with one of the largest departures of his career.
Gone now are most of the comforting folk music embellishments and in their place are foundations of electronically and synthetically created backing tracks. Opening track Futile Devices eases the listener into this new world with remnants of past sounds but from then on it’s a brave new world.
Lacking the sanctuary of warm acoustic backdrops, Sufjan weaves vocals into these eclectic mixes to surround the listener with a human element so not all is zeros and ones. Using this approach actually open the music up. The number of ideas at play (even from someone with as much creativity as Sufjan) is impressive. Weather it’s the mutant Some Where Over The Rainbow choir of Now That I’m Older, the scary monster parade of the title track or even the blips and bleeps of Bad Communication, there are a serious number of ideas at play here.
With new works by much loved artists that represent less than immediate accessibility becoming long term favourites, The Age Of Adz could well become the new standard for Sufjan. It’s been played around these parts insistently for a while now and the results just keep getting better.