Moses Sumney is staking his claim as an ‘Aromantic’ – a person who rejects the conventionality of coupled love. If you’re up to date with Sumney’s earlier EPs, you’ll know solitude and detachment is a natural precursor to his exploration of ‘otherness’. And what elevates this full-length above the farcical, is that he interrogates society’s obsession with normative love through voyeuristic wordplay that never comes across preachy or ham-fisted. The meaning behind his words are rendered so beautifully through ethereal, dream-like soundscapes; you can’t help but fall into the loveless trance that Sumney induces.
On the electro-folk hybrid, ‘Indulge Me’, Sumney fleshes out his experience of anti-love – seemingly at peace with his own ambiguities. Sumney embraces the void that comes with being lonesome, whilst all his former lovers have moved on with their own monogamous relationships. He juxtaposes Sufjan-esque bucolic musings with layered harmonies that hit you like you’ve just been anointed, take the soporific highlight ‘Make Out in The Car’, Sumney treating the casualness of making out as the limit to his reciprocity, repeating the same sentiment as if it’s a hymn.
Indeed, through a prism of celestial transcendence, the record comes full circle, echoing Sumney’s childhood as a choirboy and reflecting his heritage as the son of pastors. Routinely, Sumney’s multi-tracked vocals foreground the record, Sumney amplifying his feathery, piercing falsetto to striking effect. ‘Doomed’, a bleak, dystopian track, stands as a contrast to the rest of the record in its sparse, unembellished make-up, Sumney’s tremolo weaving a story of “godlessness”. Sumney doesn’t have all the answers, much of the record sees him questioning his own agency, finding home in a murky abyss of unknowing.
On ‘Aromanticism’, Sumney has worked hard to defy binary categorisation. The record is a singular, sprawling affair that revisits the evocative, hyper-real Art of Bjӧrk with the spacey jazz and funk flourishes of Prince. Virtuosic ad-libs, guitar flicks and iridescent harp inflections create an ethereal, otherworldly feel to the record, take the Thundercat-assisted ‘Lonely World’, a crescendo of bass and horns and swells of melodrama.
If a drawback exists, it’s that Sumney’s lower register is underutilised - a cottony, sinewy part of his arsenal reduced to a mere cameo. Some may argue that ‘Aromanticism’ is style over substance, certainly his sentiments run the risk of evading the listening, such is the beauty of the dreamscape he weaves. Yet as you revisit the record, the case for being ‘aromantic’, has never sounded so fully realised, so complete and so utterly inviting.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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