Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

The Quietus

Moses Sumney’s voice lingers somewhere between dream and reality, then gently melts into your subconscious. On first listen the subject matter of his debut album, Aromaticism, completely evaded me as his vocals took centrestage. A controlled falsetto renders the rare moment when we hear his lower register all the more delightful.

‘Doomed’, originally released in 2016, is one of these moments. Sumney’s quivering vocals, akin to Lianne La Havas on 'Lost & Found', cascade downwards, slipping in and out of his natural range. He sings: “If lovelessness is godlessness / Will you cast me to the wayside? / Well, I feel the peeling of half-painted ceilings / Reveal the covering of a blank sky.” The running theme of solitude is at its most poignant here thanks to the song’s stark composition. Sumney’s lone voice sails atop a gradually building synth. Unlike the rest of the album, where Sumney layers his own vocals to choral affect, 'Doomed' is lavishly unembellished.

Elsewhere on the 11-track album, tumbling ad libs, fingerstyle guitar and harp sounds create an ethereal ambience. A guest appearance from Thundercat towards the end of 'Lonely World' is a highlight: the song builds into a frenetic mass of horns, harmonies and bass before abruptly retracting into Sumney’s whispers of “lonely, lonely, lonely”.

Aromanticism, as the title suggests, is supposed to counter music’s obsession with romantic love. As the singer wrote in a pre-album essay released on Twitter, this record “seeks to interrogate the idea that romance is normative and necessary.” The album tracks Sumney struggling with and eventually accepting his own disinterest in conventional relationships.

This themes of loneliness and romance have been consistent in Sumney’s work since his 2014 EP, Mid-City Island. On that record's 'Man on the Moon' he expressed similar worries to those on 'Doomed' here: “I used to say I love to stay alone / Now the lights are never bright when I get home / A soul cannot be whole if only rogue / Can a vagrant body be celestial?”. Aided by intricate vocal layering, another staple feature of his work, the singer-songwriter creates an all-encompassing sense of seclusion. Whether it’s the effervescent jazz interlude at the end of 'Quarrel', or the drawn-out tension in Sumney’s voice, it’s undeniable that Aromanticism is a deeply sensual listen.

Moving away from the intentionally lo-fi production of his earlier output has allowed for a fresh intensity in Sumney’s music. He is an exceptional example of an artist who has continuously honed and developed his sound, while staying true to its essence. Profound, passionate and at times mournful he remains. Aromanticism is an exquisitely well-crafted piece of work, which retains a delicate complexity despite its minimalism.

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Thu Oct 05 13:37:09 GMT 2017

Pitchfork 86

The debut album from Moses Sumney is a soulful, cosmic embrace of aloneness. His deep blue songwriting examines the blasé cruelty that defines intimacy in our swipe-left era.

Wed Sep 27 05:00:00 GMT 2017

The Guardian 80

(Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar)

“Am I vital, if my heart is idle? Am I doomed?”, Californian artist Moses Sumney asks on his debut album, his voice carrying the formidable authority of Prince and the late-night melodrama of Jeff Buckley. While those references sound hyperbolic, Sumney – a darling of the alternative world; appearing on Solange’s Mad and touring with Sufjan Stevens – is cut from a superior cloth to most singer-songwriters in 2017. On a concept album about lovelessness, he creates a cavernous feeling of loneliness using soundscapes similar to those Nigel Godrich explores. There’s a warmth too – the spritely Grizzly Bear strings, cosmic jazz, chintzy acoustic ambience and Thundercat on bass. He even finds elegance in the lyrics: “I’m not trying to go to bed with ya / I just want to make out in the car.” When music sounds this complete and absorbing, it’s a wonder we waste our lives chasing coexistence with sweaty, needy humans anyway.

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Thu Sep 21 20:45:28 GMT 2017

The Guardian 80

The choirboy turned soul singer rejects coupledom on his gorgeous, genre-spurning debut

Loneliness is a recurrent ache in pop music; the diagnosis is normally heartbreak, unrequited love or loss. Moses Sumney has a slightly different take on what is drily termed “aromanticism” – an imperviousness to coupling up. Born of exacting self-scrutiny, it is bolstered by 70s soul, Greek myth and what sounds like a personal phalanx of angels that routinely dive bombs this gorgeously crafted album.

We’re not all destined to be completed by some special someone, the LA musician seems to conclude. That the swooning, layered backing vocals on many of these 11 tracks turn out to be just Sumney, multi-tracked, underscore his exquisite isolation.

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Sun Sep 24 07:59:39 GMT 2017