Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine
A Beginner’s Mind
Asthmatic Kitty · September 24, 2021
Many might say that quarantine brought out the worst case of inactivity in human history. It was almost as if time froze, and we all desperately looked for distractions to prevent the boredom from setting in. Some assembled puzzles, while others took up new hobbies like baking or knitting. Eventually, though, most of us ran out of things to do. During this time, Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine passed the time a little bit differently: creating an indie album that pays homage to 14 cinematic pieces.
After long days at the studio, Stevens and De Augustine would spend late nights binge-watching film classics. Many of the movies on their list were recommendations, so both men would often get to experience a movie together for the first time. Others were movies that they had recommended for each other. The pair spent countless hours together enthralled in different fantasy worlds, until they found that their new hobby was finding its way into other parts of their lives. Without knowing it at first, they were incorporating themes of the movies they watched into their music.
From “Back To Oz” to “Lady Macbeth In Chains,” each of the 14 tracks on this album tells a story inspired by a movie. The obvious choice would be to create music based on your favorite movies, but Stevens and De Augustine had a different idea in mind. In an interview with GQ Magazine, De Augustine states, “A lot of these movies are pretty problematic. They didn’t age very well.” The idea to create works based on movies with outdated themes was not a conscious choice, but one that Stevens described as a “happy accident.” Each movie’s imperfections were primary factors as to why they were chosen. Both men thought the meeting of tension and relief within these movies to be interesting, and something that they both wanted to explore.
The album begins on a rather dark note, as the track “Reach Out” draws inspiration from the movie “Wings of Desire.” The song plays on several themes from the movie, discussing touchy subjects such as human suffering and feelings of isolation. Personally, I found the range of themes in this album to be quite fascinating. No song is like any other, each telling its own unique story and expressing a different set of human experiences. To fully take in this album, however, I would recommend watching the 14 movies that represent each track. Stevens and Augustine knew that with a project such as this, moments of comedic relief had to fit in somehow. The pair found lines in some of these movies to be so ridiculous that they needed to incorporate them into their tracks. If you listen closely enough, you might even hear some familiar lines – some of the movies incorporated in the album include blockbusters like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “She’s Gotta Have It,” and “Mad Max.”
Beyond the stories themselves, Stevens incorporates familiar melodies and tones from some of his past works, including his most recent album, Convocation, which consists of 49 mind-boggling beats. De Augustine seems to be the perfect match for Stevens’ soft vocals. Their voices are so similar that it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint who is singing, but this works out in favor of the album as it adds a touch of tenderness to each song. As much as Stevens’ past work is present in this album, you can hear De Augustine’s process almost equally. Specifically, the track “It’s Your Own Body and Mind” draws direct inspiration from De Augustine’s album Swim Inside The Moon.
This brilliant piece of work can be described as nothing less than a euphoric, out-of-body experience. Each track takes the listener on a different journey, and at the end, we question our preconceived notions about the world. The pair’s uncanny ability to describe feelings we didn’t even know we felt will be forever immortalized in our minds.