Sufjan Stevens Shares New 10-Minute Long Song “My Rajneesh” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020  

Sufjan Stevens Shares New 10-Minute Long Song “My Rajneesh”

The B-side to “America”

Jul 10, 2020
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Sufjan Stevens is releasing a new album, The Ascension, on September 25 via Asthmatic Kitty. Previously he shared the album’s first single, 12-minute long closing track “America.” Now he has shared the previously announced B-side for the “America” single, non-album track “My Rajneesh.” It’s a lush 10-minute long track that starts in an orchestral pop vein, but turns more electronic midway through, references his previous Age of Adz track “Vesuvius,” and ends with an ambient outro. The song is actually a leftover from the Carrie and Lowell sessions. “America” and “My Rajneesh” will be released as 12-inch single on July 31. Listen to “My Rajneesh” below.

With a title like “America,” the first single’s timed release the day before July 4th was no accident and in a press release Stevens said it was “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.”

“Don’t do to me what you did to America,” Stevens sings in the chorus to “America.” “Don’t do to me what you do to yourself.” A previous press release further said the song “is an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here.”  

“America” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Stevens says The Ascension is “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.” Could this be his protest album?

And while “America” may seem written for these times, it was actually written six years ago, prior to the election of Donald Trump, when he was working on his last fully fledged studio solo album, 2015’s Carrie & Lowell.

“I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it,” Stevens said in the previous press release. “Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell. So I shelved it.

“But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.”

Stevens then re-recorded “America” and used it as a jumping off point for The Ascension.

Musically, “America” is much closer to the experimental and disorientating sounds of his 2010 album The Age of Adz, rather than the more delicate folk of Carrie & Lowell.

Stevens recorded most of The Ascension himself, on his computer, and basing it around a drum machine and synthesizers. Stevens calls it a “lush, editorial pop album,” one that finds us all at a “terrifying crossroad.”

“My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you,” Stevens adds. “Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”

The Ascension is described as the official follow-up to Carrie & Lowell. Stevens has released plenty of music in the five years since Carrie & Lowell, but he hasn’t released a straight up solo album since then. In 2017 he teamed up with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner (of The National), and James McAlister for the collaborative album, Planetarium, which centered around space and the planets. The same year he also released a mixtape entitled The Greatest Gift, which featured unreleased outtakes, remixes, and iPhone demos from Carrie & Lowell.

Stevens also performed at the 2018 Academy Awards, doing “Mystery of Love,” a song written for the film Call Me By Your Name that was nominated for Best Original Song (but didn’t win). In 2019 he teamed up with the composer/pianist Timo Andres to release the soundtrack to the ballet The Decalogue. The same year he also shared the new songs “Love Yourself” and “With My Whole Heart,” in honor of Pride Month.

Back in March of this year Stevens teamed up with his stepfather Lowell Brams for the new collaborative instrumental album Aporia, via Asthmatic Kitty. Stevens and Brams, who co-founded Asthmatic Kitty together in 1999, had been working on Aporia for several years, when Brams would visit Stevens at his New York home. The album was narrowed down from hours and hours of jam sessions.

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