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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week