Sufjan Stevens is currently in a stretch that’s as productive as any point in his career so far. Since the start of 2020, he has released three albums: Aporia (a collaboration with stepfather Lowell Brams), The Ascension, and this year’s five-volume ambient project, Convocations. Now, he has yet another new project in the pipeline: A Beginner’s Mind, a collaborative album with Asthmatic Kitty labelmate Angelo De Augustine, is set for release on September 24.
Both artists excel in gentle indie folk, and that’s just what they deliver on the two new songs they shared today, “Reach Out” and “Olympus.”
Press materials note that the album started when the pair headed to a friend’s cabin in upstate New York for a “monthlong songwriting sabbatical.” At the ends of their days, Stevens and De Augustine would unwind by watching movies, and the duo’s songs soon began to reflect on the films. The album was inspired by “shoshin,” a word from Zen Buddhism that means “Beginner’s Mind” (hence the album title) and refers to a sense of openness and eagerness.
Of the songs, press materials also say, “The results are less a ‘cinematic exegesis’ and more a ‘rambling philosophical inquiry’ that allows the songs to free-associate at will. Plot-points, scene summaries, and leading characters are often displaced by esoteric interpolations that ask the bigger question: What does it mean to be human in a broken world? […] The movies became rhetorical prompts, with the songwriters letting their distinct reactions and creative instincts govern their process. The underlying objective was empathy and openness, absent of judgment: to observe with the eyes of a child.”
Listen to “Reach Out” and “Olympus” above, and check out the A Beginner’s Mind art and tracklist below.
1. “Reach Out”
2. “Lady Macbeth In Chains”
3. “Back To Oz”
4. “The Pillar Of Souls”
5. “You Give Death A Bad Name”
6. “Beginner’s Mind”
8. “Murder And Crime”
9. “(This Is) The Thing”
10. “It’s Your Own Body And Mind”
11. “Lost In The World”
12. “Fictional California”
13. “Cimmerian Shade”
A Beginner’s Mind is out 9/24 via Asthmatic Kitty. Pre-order it here.