Boomkat Product Review:
It's starting to look as though Sufjan Stevens has lost all interest in dedicating his albums to American states, although if The BQE is anything to go by, perhaps he's moved on to soundtracking his favourite roads. This grand and ambitious project finds the songwriter presenting both a film and accompanying musical suite for New York City's Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The highly elaborate orchestrally-proportioned album narrative was debuted as part of the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Next Wave Festival in November 2007 but now, at last, makes its entrance as a recorded work. Those familiar with Stevens' more ambitious instrumental flights of fancy will immediately identify with the meticulously elaborate arrangements on show here, but the scale and scope of this enterprise are vastly more ambitious than anything that's come before. 'Prelude On The Esplanade' begins with an overture of mysterious drone and electronic processes, but it's not long before we're plunged into more inviting territory: 'Introductory Fanfare For The Hooper Heroes' is as playful as it is bombastic, ushering in forty minutes of wonderfully melodic experiments. The cleverness and overwhelming musicality of Sufjan's song-based material is carried over in these works, and they're a million miles away from the default settings of all things modern classical. During The BQE you'll hear none of the tearjerking, suckerpunching piano-meets-strings melancholy Max Richter and the like would dish out, instead there's a restless vision that takes in elements of Broadway musical, Reich-ian minimalism and in the case of fourth movement 'Traffic Shock', an outburst of hyperactive programmed beats and chirruping electronics. It was always going to be a bit of a shame that Sufjan doesn't contribute any of his more conventional songs to the set - particularly given how long it's been since last we heard that kind of output from him - but as an isolated project The BQE is quite brilliant in terms of both its conception and realisation.