by: Moses Sumney

The singular talents of Moses Sumney were already apparent in a couple of early EPs and guest spots with Solange and Sufjan Stevens, but his stellar debut album, Aromanticism, still comes as a slow-motion shock. First of all there is his concept of "aromantic," defined by Sumney as someone incapable of experiencing romantic love, coupled with the struggle to fit into a world where love is almost an imposition and its negation an aberration. Unsurprisingly for an era so obsessed with body politics, most of the commentary surrounding this critically acclaimed album tended to focus on Sumney's manifesto, conveniently ignoring that many before Sumney have been suspicious about the commodification of romance, for instance political art rock bands such as Gang of Four or the whole straight-edge hardcore movement. What is different here, and the main reason Aromanticism is such a beguiling record, is the tension between content and form. While the bands mentioned above took pains to create music as unromantic as possible, Sumney's is explicitly sensual, his yearning for detachment as convincing as Al Green's or Maxwell's longing for the polar opposite. Juxtaposition lies at the very fabric of these tracks, which contrast spacious, spectral electronic textures against lush organic sounds such as harp, guitar, and strings. Furthermore, while most of the record keeps to a chill downtempo, climax and release occur at key moments in the shape of sudden bursts of acceleration and volume, most noticeably on the coda to the album's centerpiece, "Lonely World." As meticulously impressive as the arrangements are, everything takes a back seat to Sumney's heavenly falsetto surrounded by a swirling spiral of his own background vocals. This is no small weapon: not since Antony has a voice evoked such wonder. The results are startling and difficult to categorize (groove ambient music? art soul?), and nonetheless uniformly exceptional. Aromanticism may have developed from a peculiar and attention-grabbing concept, but it ultimately triumphs on account of the utterly original and exquisite craft of its productions and performances. The sterling list of collaborators includes fellow sonic adventurers such as Thundercat, Paris Strother (King), Matt Otto (Majical Cloudz), Ian Chang (Son Lux), and Nicole Miglis (Hundred Waters). ~ Mariano Prunes

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