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Boomkat Product Review:
Arriving on the heels of his recent All Delighted People EP, Sufjan Stevens at long last releases a proper full-length follow-up to his modern classic, Illinois. Strictly speaking, the self-released All Delighted People would by merits of its scale and duration qualify as an album in itself, but The Age Of Adz is billed as the official comeback long-player. Never one to do anything by halves, Sufjan has unleashed a bonafide opus on his audience with this CD-stretching effort; there's even a twenty-five minute long final track. Yikes. It's surprising then that opener 'Futile Devices' is so (relatively) pared down and minimal in its constitution, occupying two minutes with gentle, arpeggiating string plucks and a lulling, very intimate vocal that's vintage Sufjan. Following on, 'Too Much' could hardly be more of a departure, babbling through laptop-churned beats and bright synth tones. The song's melodic content and usage of orchestration is still unmistakably in-keeping with this songwriter's established oeuvre, but the prevalence of electronic arrangements proves to be a major theme across The Age Of Adz. 'I Walked' subscribes to a similar sonic sensibility, yet under all those twitchy digital production elements there remains a strength of writing that far transcends any suggestions of so-called folktronica. In this respect, you might compare some of the leaner moments of the album ('Vesuvius', for instance) to some of John Vanderslice's work. More experimental cuts like 'Now That I'm Older' prove to be amongst the most satisfying on the album, combining lavish swathes of instrumentation with a clever use of studio multitracking with almost casually epic results. Speaking of epic, just dip a toe into that vast twenty-five minute closing track, 'Impossible Soul'. What could easily have been a bit of a drudge turns out to be a hearteningly accessible and rather moving piece that continually renews itself, switching between musical genres at a frenzied rate; along the way the piece absorbs cyborg rhythmic figures, huge string sections, top 40 R&B-style AutoTune and choral, feel-good singalongs. It's going to take quite some time to fully digest this record, but first impressions suggest that The Age Of Adz is an album to savour.