Moses Sumney has a masterplan. An American songwriter and vocalist blessed with incredible depth of talent, his releases have been sporadic but sought after, his work enriching but never ostentatious.
Debut album ‘Aromanticism’ is presented as a new project, but its roots run right back to the very first songs he ever wrote. “I’ve been making an album this entire time,” he tells Clash, “it was just a matter of when it would be done, when it was ready to be shared. I’ve been working on it for years.”
A remarkable, singular document, ‘Aromanticism’ is presented by its creator as a thesis on lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape, an exploration of the pressures society exerts in order to push people towards relationships.
“That’s definitely a pressure I feel,” he says. “I wrote the record from that perspective. I don’t fully think it’s possible to step outside of that. I think maybe for some people it is, but I think it would take such a long time to undo the learning of how to approach the absence of someone else. It’s like you’re either operating under the umbrella of social pressure or you’re operating under nothing.”
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The notion of dreams, too, is integral to the record; each song billows out, processing thoughts and emotions in often outlandish ways, a form of songwriting that works with an emotional, not mathematical, logic.
He tells Clash: “I don’t always remember my dreams but I started keeping a dream journal about a year ago, to document and remember as much as I could. Sometimes I write songs in my sleep - I’ll hear music and then get up and write it. I’ll have weirdly prophetic dreams. I think they’re definitely really important.”
‘Aromanticism’ is a highly individual record, but it’s far from a solo piece. Unlike those sparse, early recordings, Moses Sumney exults in collaboration, the album benefiting from the input of Paris Strother, Thundercat, and Jamire Williams. The songwriter himself gleefully terms these aspects “proggy” when discussing the taut yet open-ended sessions.
“The sounds would emerge or present themselves as we would go along,” he explains. “But it was most important to me to start songs on my own before bringing in powerful collaborators, and that was the way that I could maintain my ideas. In terms of aesthetics, certainly.”
An album constructed across several years by an artist in perpetual quest for evolution, ‘Aromanticism’ nonetheless feels like a very concise, defined work - put simply, it hangs together in that classic album sense.
Moses Sumney was clearly aiming for this throughout the studio sessions, eager to bring together the multi-various strands of such a complex theme. “I think the emotionality is what unifies the work, and a great deal of honesty,” he says. “I’m trying to communicate ideas in a way that is honest. I’m trying to communicate an emotional process that resonates and is natural.”
“I think taking my time over this has allowed me to explore that, to focus on different territories within that idea. I wanted to be able to incorporate a lot of different elements within that singular process.”
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‘Aromanticism’ certainly achieves that aim. Ideas tumble forth from every song, ranging from stark lead single ‘Doomed’ to long-time concert highlight ‘Lonely World’. It’s bold and contradictory, yet makes a curious kind of sense.
“I can feel satisfied and content but… that goes away,” Moses says at one point in our conversation. “I feel like a very ambivalent person - like, I can feel everything at different times. Everything I say about myself, the opposite will, at some point, become true. I don’t know. I’m curious to see how other people view that, how other people respond to that, because life is long.”
Out now, this is the point where the material on ‘Aromanticism’ departs the songwriter’s own life, and becomes infused, entwined with the experiences of those who encounter. It’s a process Moses Sumney is ready for - in fact, it’s something he yearns for.
“I think I see the album as something that helps within a conversation,” he explains. “I don’t want to always be talking about myself. The album is obviously about my life, but I was aiming for more of a general feeling that could resonate with people who are questioning. I basically want people to pick up the album and think about it in the context of their own lives and those around them.”
It’s an album that will play many different roles, evolving in a similar manner to its creator. Following our conversation there’s one quote that resonates a little more deeply than others: “I think my favourite kind of artist is someone who can envisage an event that hasn’t occurred but make it feel like it’s already happening. To shock the world, and see what impact it would have.”
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'Aromanticism' is out now.
Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Laura McCluskey
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