Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine Share “Cimmerian Shade” and “You Give Death a Bad Name” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine Share “Cimmerian Shade” and “You Give Death a Bad Name”

Songs Inspired by Silence of the Lambs and Night of the Living Dead

Sep 08, 2021
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Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine are releasing a new collaborative album together, A Beginner’s Mind, on September 24 via Asthmatic Kitty and now they have shared two new songs from it, “Cimmerian Shade” and “You Give Death a Bad Name.” The album is inspired by different films, with “Cimmerian Shade” taking inspiration from 1991’s Silence of the Lambs and “You Give Death a Bad Name” being inspired by 1968’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. Listen to both below.

Stevens is based in New York, De Augustine lives in Thousand Oaks, CA. Both artists are already on Asthmatic Kitty and the album came together during a month long songwriting retreat between the two of them in a friend’s Upstate New York cabin. At the end of each day they’d watch a movie to unwind and the movies started to inform their songwriting, so much so that the songs on A Beginner’s Mind are each loosely based on a film.

“Cimmerian Shade” is sung from the perspective of Silence of the Lambs’ serial killer Buffalo Bill (aka Jame Gumb, as played by Ted Levine). De Augustine had this to say about the song in a press release: “Many authors have emotional attachments to the characters they create. But in this instance, I was interested in how a character felt about being created. In my imagination I was giving consciousness to someone else’s creation. The song is essentially a dialogue between creation and creator that seeks to find understanding to some of the same questions that we ask ourselves about existence, free will, fate, purpose, guidance and if anyone or anything out there is listening or cares.”

When the album was announced, Stevens and De Augustine shared two songs from it, “Reach Out” and “Olympus.” The former was shared via a VHS-shot video featuring their dogs Joku and Charlie and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared two more songs from it, “Back to Oz” (inspired by 1985’s Return to Oz and shared via a video) and “Fictional California” (inspired by 2004’s direct-to-video cheerleading comedy sequel Bring It On Again). “Back to Oz” was one of our Songs of the Week.

A previous press release described the album in more detail: “The resulting album is 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films—highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between. They wrote in tandem—one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process. Rigorous editing and rewriting ensued. The results are less a ‘cinematic exegesis’ and more a “rambling philosophical inquiry” that allows the songs to free-associate at will. Plot-points, scene summaries, and leading characters are often displaced by esoteric interpolations that ask the bigger question: what does it mean to be human in a broken world?

“Stevens and De Augustine wrote everything with a deliberate sense of shoshin—the Zen Buddhist concept for which the record is named and an idea that empowered the pair to look for and write about unlikely inspiration without preconceived notions of what a film had to say (The I-Ching and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies also served as incentives along the way). The movies became rhetorical prompts, with the songwriters letting their distinct reactions and creative instincts govern their process. The underlying objective was empathy and openness, absent of judgment: to observe with the eyes of a child.”

For the project’s artwork they commissioned Ghanaian artist Daniel Anum Jasper. In his home country in the late ’80s films were often viewed via mobile cinema screenings out of the back of pickup trucks and were advertised via newly illustrated movie posters, with the artists often given not much information about each film. Jasper was one such artist and was asked to work in this style again. His artwork appears on the cover of both the album and three 7-inches singles from the album.

Earlier this year Stevens released the five-volume album Convocations. De Augustine’s most recent album was 2019’s Tomb.

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