Sufjan Stevens has announced a new collaborative album with Asthmatic Kitty label mate Angelo De Augustine. Entitled A Beginner’s Mind, it’s due for release on September 24th. As a preview, the duo has shared two songs: “Reach Out” and “Olympus”.
A Beginner’s Mind came about after Stevens and De Augustine decamped to a friend’s cabin in upstate New York for a monthlong songwriting sabbatical. “Watching a movie to unwind after each day’s work, they soon found their songs reflecting the films and began investigating this connection in earnest.”
A press release goes on to explain:
“The resulting album is 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films—highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between. They wrote in tandem—one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process. Rigorous editing and rewriting ensued. 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?
Stevens and De Augustine wrote everything with a deliberate sense of shoshin—the Zen Buddhist concept for which the record is named and an idea that empowered the pair to look for and write about unlikely inspiration without preconceived notions of what a film had to say (The I-Ching and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies also served as incentives along the way). 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.”
Ghanaian artist Daniel Anum Jasper was commissioned to create the album’s artwork, which is inspired by Ghana’s “mobile cinema” culture of the 1980s when movie-goers screened Hollywood blockbusters in the backs of pick-up trucks using portable generators. Those screenings were advertised by painted posters created by artists with own scan information about each film. In keeping with that theme, Stevens and De Augustine deliberately kept vague about their collaboration “so that Mr. Jasper could work without restraint.”
Stevens and De Augustine are previewing A Beginner’s Mind with a pair of teaser tracks: “Reach Out” and “Olympus”. The former song comes with a music video shot on VHS-C cameras and featuring Stevens’ and De Augustine’s respective dogs, Joku (a Jindo) and Charlie (a Havanese). Watch below, and pre-order the album here.
The release of A Beginner’s Mind follows Stevens’ Convocations, a five volume collection of instrumental music released back in May.
A Beginner’s Mind Artwork:
A Beginner’s Mind Tracklist:
01. Reach Out
02. Lady Macbeth In Chains
03. Back To Oz
04. The Pillar Of Souls
05. You Give Death A Bad Name
06. Beginner’s Mind
08. Murder And Crime
09. (This Is) The Thing
10. It’s Your Own Body And Mind
11. Lost In The World
12. Fictional California
13. Cimmerian Shade