Aporia is the product of a collaboration between Sufjan Stevens and stepfather Lowell Brams, released on their label Asthmatic Kitty. Knowing their history as a family, and their relationship with each other makes the record even more nuanced. It’s the consequence of Lowell’s careful encouragement of Sufjan’s childhood interest in music. Their knowledge and musical ideas intertwine and compliment each other, rather than clash. The premise of the album, much like Electric Youth’s Breathing, is that of an imagined sci-fi soundtrack. It’s a brilliant instrumental album, and a celebration of what music can be.
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‘Ousia’, the patient opening to the duo’s album, begins with a steady atmosphere and blends seamlessly into impactful synths, settling back down into the rest of the record. It gives us a look at what to expect from the rest of the LP, with ‘What It Takes’ carrying on the more relaxed undertones with flickering points of reflection.
‘Disinheritance’ is a moment on the record with meditative stillness and carries through to later tracks like ‘Determined Outcome’ and ‘Misology’, which create this ambient sci-fi feel. Listening to the album with your eyes closed, you can imagine a sci-fi story, playing out amongst the tracks with a clear narrative.
Shorter tracks like ‘Glorious You’, with its orchestral elements, and ‘Red Desert’ create a dramatic, intense atmosphere, but do so with the same tenderness Sufjan Stevens uses in his own work. The album culminates in hopeful cut ‘The Lydian Ring’, with gentle synths and twinkly sounds.
Aporia is a beautifully crafted, transcendent piece of work. It’s a perfect feature film soundtrack, it’s ambient music, it’s intelligent instrumentals. It’s not what we usually expect from singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, but that just further proves how dynamic he is as an artist. Lowell Brams’ influences are heavily present on the record at every turn, and it’s incredible to see Stevens and Brams continue to work, side by side.
Aporia is out now via Asthmatic Kitty Records.