Moses Sumney: græ (Jagjaguwar) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, September 24th, 2020  

Moses Sumney

græ

Jagjaguwar

Aug 10, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


“I insist upon my right to be multiple,” intones Taiye Selasi’s modulated voice over skeletal percussion and misty vocal samples on “also also also and and and,” one of græ’s interludes. The statement could very well function as a thesis statement for the entirety of the album. Moses Sumney’s sophomore album is an expansive and sweeping meditation on liminality and the process of defining oneself, so as one might expect the scope is suitably grand—a double album centered around the gray areas of our chosen identities, reckoning with one’s perpetual process of becoming and the tensions of articulating oneself into preset categories while one continues to evolve. It’s dizzyingly recursive terrain, the space of thoughts where contradictions and aporias coalesce to form semi-permanent markings written on top of one another, like a spiderweb partially destroyed by rain, woven from the old and new, the stable and ephemeral. 

For all of the purposefully oblique subject matter, the album never once feels indirect or opaque, instead grounding the concepts of difference and performance in the familiar gestures (“shoulders and back straight”) that serve to make the most familiar behaviorisms suddenly alien and strangely devoid of the innate logic we—in our day to day haste—ascribe to them. Sumney’s voice is also an amorphous Rorschach that is alternately manipulated to spectral unrecognizability and piercingly direct, but even then, almost as if by sheer juxtaposition to soundscapes so warped, it assumes an alien grandeur that surpasses our usual familiarity with the voice. His voice is multiply expressive, both in the way that a singer/songwriter’s voice in its lyrical accent would be, and in the way that someone like Daniel Lopatin’s production would expectedly turn a voice into beautiful putty. 

As an album that seems to delight in counterpoint, the list of collaborators who join Sumney to realize his vision of isolation is suitably flushed. Bass riffs from Thundercat, string arrangements from Rob Moose, saxophone and synths from FKJ, and writing credits from sources as eclectic as James Blake, Ezra Miller, and Michael Chabon all coalesce into a unified voice that somehow still sounds engulfed in a vast space of infinite distance. It’s just our luck that Sumney understands we feel the same way. (www.mosessumney.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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