Album: Sufjan Stevens, All Delighted People (Bandcamp.com)

5.00

It's about time Sufjan Stevens got back to writing songs, having spent the last few years filming and scoring his urban documentary The BBQ and transposing his earlier electronic concept album about the Chinese Zodiac, Enjoy Your Rabbit, for the string quartet version "Run Rabbit Run".

Finally, with "All Delighted People" – apparently an EP, despite being an hour long – he returns to the song for the first time since 2006, and it's a relief, like a master chef getting back to the main course after time out as a pastry-chef.

The download-only album is built around two takes of the title-track, opening with an 11-minute version which features wistful strings and ponderous horns in uneasy alliance in front of a chilly choral curtain. Stevens has described it as "a dramatic homage to the apocalypse, existential ennui and Paul Simon's "Sound Of Silence", which just about covers it: line quotes from Simon's classic ("and the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they'd made", etc) share song-space with religious proclamation while the arrangement sweeps from quietly meditative to vertiginously dramatic, leaving one thoroughly ragged by the conclusion. The later 8-minute "classic rock" version opens Illinoise-style with banjo, before the choir and gently riffing horns add warmer textures, but it's still a far cry from any classic rock I've encountered, despite the fragmented guitar and synth with which it closes.

The impassioned whimsy of "Enchanting Ghost" brings to mind The Incredible String Band, as Stevens sketches a backdrop of guitar and banjo fingerpicking behind a lyric encouraging separation: "And if it pleases you to leave me, just go – stopping you would stifle your enchanting ghost". The opposite desire underpins "From The Mouth Of Gabriel", on which Reichian pulsing reeds underscore prepared piano, choir and synthesiser, a strange thrumming commotion slipping slowly out of sync; and "The Owl & The Tanager" once more finds Stevens drawing on inscrutable personal events, related over reflective piano quadruplets that develop an incantatory power – an art-song with roots in Schubert lieder as much as folk or pop.

The same could hardly be said of "Djohariah", which concludes the album with a "17-minute guitar jam for single mothers" – specifically, Sufjan's sister Djohariah, whose name is chanted in a lowing murmur accompanied by mild horns and piano, alternating with bursts of jagged electric guitar noise in the manner of Neil Young's "Cowgirl In The Sand", until Stevens' lyric begins some 12 minutes in, a comforting affirmation that she's doing the right thing, that "the mother is the glorious victorious" and that "the man who left you for dead, he's the heart grabber back- stabber double-cheater wife beater – you don't need that man in your life". It's a beautiful piece of work which seems to encompass all the angst and painful shame of the situation before blossoming into the most positive of resolutions, further confirmation that Stevens is one of the most important talents working in music today.

DOWNLOAD THIS Djohariah; From The Mouth Of Gabriel; Enchanting Ghost; The Owl & The Tanager

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor