Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams: Aporia review – Skimpy side project

Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 05:00



Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams

Asthmatic Kitty


If you’re a Sufjan Stevens fan, you’ll already know who Lowell Brams is – not least because he was referenced in the title of his last album, 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. Brams is Stevens’s stepfather and the co-founder of his Asthmatic Kitty label, and collaborated with Stevens on 2008’s drone-heavy Music for Insomnia.

This new partnership is an entirely different proposition, inspired primarily by New Age music; Enya has even been mentioned as a musical touchpoint. Sounds intriguing, right? Don’t get too excited. It’s easy to tell that Stevens and Brams laid the groundwork for these predominantly instrumental songs via hours of circuitous jam sessions. The majority of these 21 tracks sound unfinished, as if the pair didn’t bother to flesh out those initial ideas and slivers of promising melodies. Even the highlights are frustratingly unstructured at best (the hymnal industrial vibe of What it Takes, the purposeful beat of Captain Praxis, the 1980s sci-fi soundtrack of The Runaround), while the pair’s synthesised noodling lacks direction or a killer hook.

If you’re simply after a background soundtrack, that’s fine, but while Stevens has carved a unique niche for himself as a thoughtful songwriter, this untidy melange veers dangerously close to vanity project. The sentiment is undeniably sweet, but the end result isn’t a particularly gratifying listening experience. Best file this one under “dodgy side project”.