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Indie-rock musicians Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAlister have released their debut collaborative album Planetarium; although the album received a live premier back in 2013 during a short residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, its release by indie label 4AD marks the first official recording of the conceptual project.
In an interview given to NPR, Stevens discussed his inspiration for the project and provided insight into the albums solar system-inspired soundscape. The project itself clocks in at 75-minutes long with Stevens explaining that such an ‘epic endeavour’ reflects the increasing expansiveness of the universe which is reflected within the album.
Sonically, the album mirrors it’s astrologically inspired concept with the use of ambient tones, analogue synthesisers and electronic string arrangements all contributing to the celestial but melodic nature of the project. Early reviews of the project have been somewhat mixed; The Guardian have referred the project as a firm staple within Steven’s catalogue which shares similarities with recent projects from bands such as Caribou, whereas DIY Magazine criticised the project for its overly vast scale and a lack of diversity across the album. The lead single from the project, ‘Mercury’, can be viewed below:
Meanwhile, the group have announced a series of limited tour dates in support of the project. The tour kicks off in Paris and will cover four dates throughout July; full dates can be seen below:
07-10 Paris, France – Philharmonie de Paris
07-18 Brooklyn, NY – Prospect Park
07-20 Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Forever Cemetery
07-21 Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
In other news, Bryce Dessner has continued his involvement with Eaux Claires music festival which has recently announced its 2017 line-up. The Wisconsin based festival, conceived by Dessner and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, will feature artists such as Tweedy, Paul Simon and Chance the Rapper which will mark its second year running since the project’s conception. Dessner will also be busy preparing the final touches to The National’s Sleep Well Beast which will be released on September 8th by 4AD; the LP consists of 12 tracks and was produced in New York by Aaron Dessner with co-production from band-mates Bryce Dessner and Matt Berninger. The album will mark the band’s first full-release in four years with an accompanying European and North American tour scheduled to begin in September.