Indie

Sufjan Stevens Is Releasing A Huge New Five-Volume Album, ‘Convocations’

Sufjan Stevens hasn’t really stopped moving over the past few years. He released two albums in 2020, Aporia and The Ascension. Now, he’s already coming back with another one, and it’s massive: Convocations is a five-volume ambient album that’s set for release in full on May 6. The first volume, Meditation, comes out on April 8, and ahead of that, Stevens shared “Meditation V.”

A statement about the album was written by Grayson Haver Currin and it describes the project in part:

“As musically erudite as it is emotionally experienced, Convocations can be dissonant, vertiginous, rhythmic, repetitive, urgent, or calm—that is, all the things we undergo when we inevitably live through loss, isolation, and anxiety.

Indeed, Convocations moves like a two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for our present times of difficulty, its 49 tracks allowing for all these feelings to be felt. The album is divided into five sonic cycles, each replicating a different stage of mourning. Convocations occasionally soothes and sometimes hurts; when it’s done, you’re left with a renewed sense of wonder for being here at all.

In fact, Stevens made Convocations in response to (and as an homage to) the life and death of his father, who died in September last year, two days following the release of The Ascension. It is, then, ultimately an album about loss, and an album that reflects a year in which we have all lost so much.”

Listen to “Meditation V” above. Below, find the Convocations art and tracklist, as well as the full album statement.

Asthmatic Kitty

1. “Meditation I”
2. “Meditation II”
3. “Meditation III”
4. “Meditation IV”
5. “Meditation V”
6. “Meditation VI”
7. “Meditation VII”
8. “Meditation VIII”
9. “Meditation IV”
10. “Meditation X”
11. “Lamentation I”
12. “Lamentation II”
13. “Lamentation III”
14. “Lamentation IV”
15. “Lamentation V”
16. “Lamentation VI”
17. “Lamentation VII”
18. “Lamentation VIII”
19. “Lamentation IX”
20. “Lamentation X”
21. “Revelation I”
22. “Revelation II”
23. “Revelation III”
24. “Revelation IV”
25. “Revelation V”
26. “Revelation VI”
27. “Revelation VII”
28. “Revelation VIII”
29. “Revelation IX”
30. “Revelation X”
31. “Celebration I”
32. “Celebration II”
33. “Celebration III”
34. “Celebration IV”
35. “Celebration V”
36. “Celebration VI”
37. “Celebration VII”
38. “Celebration VIII”
39. “Celebration IX”
40. “Celebration X”
41. “Incantation I”
42. “Incantation II”
43. “Incantation III”
44. “Incantation IV”
45. “Incantation V”
46. “Incantation VI”
47. “Incantation VII”
48. “Incantation VIII”
49. “Incantation IX”

“It may be tempting to reduce Convocations into a longform ambient anomaly within Sufjan Stevens’ vast catalogue. It is, however, neither an anomaly nor entirely ambient. This is not a side project. From his numerous dance scores for New York City Ballet to instrumental albums such as Enjoy Your Rabbit, Aporia, and The BQE, Stevens spends at least half his working life making largely instrumental music, as he has for decades. And though the first ten pieces, dubbed “Meditations,” unfurl as gorgeous states of reflective new-age grace, this is by no means an ambient enterprise. Stevens invokes the lessons of Morton Subotnick, Maryanne Amacher, Christian Fennesz, Brian Eno, and Wolfgang Voigt here. As musically erudite as it is emotionally experienced, Convocations can be dissonant, vertiginous, rhythmic, repetitive, urgent, or calm—that is, all the things we undergo when we inevitably live through loss, isolation, and anxiety.

Indeed, Convocations moves like a two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for our present times of difficulty, its 49 tracks allowing for all these feelings to be felt. The album is divided into five sonic cycles, each replicating a different stage of mourning. Convocations occasionally soothes and sometimes hurts; when it’s done, you’re left with a renewed sense of wonder for being here at all.

In fact, Stevens made Convocations in response to (and as an homage to) the life and death of his father, who died in September last year, two days following the release of The Ascension. It is, then, ultimately an album about loss, and an album that reflects a year in which we have all lost so much. One could easily compare this project to Stevens’ album Carrie & Lowell, which he wrote following his mother’s death. But this is something entirely different. A new time, a new season, a new life lost, a new reckoning, a new kind of isolation, grief, despair, frustration, confusion, and the search for happiness and hope for the future. This is not a personal record, but a universal one. Convocations is built on a shared experience that seeks to be honest about how complicated grief can be in these difficult times—the pain, the anxiety, the unknown, the absolute joy of memory. This is also an album made in lockdown, when we were all cloistered in whatever space we had. So long as the science and statistics hold, Convocations arrives just as we begin to emerge from a year whose losses we will calculate for a lifetime. It is, then, right on time, as we begin to process our grief and try to carry on with it.”

Convocations is out 5/6 via Asthmatic Kitty. Pre-order it here.

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