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Planetarium *
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Album: Planetarium *
# Song Title   Time
1)    Neptune
2)    Jupiter
3)    Halley's Comet
4)    Venus
5)    Uranus
6)    Mars
7)    Black Energy
8)    Sun
9)    Tides
10)    Moon
11)    Pluto
12)    Kuiper Belt
13)    Black Hole
14)    Saturn
15)    In the Beginning
16)    Earth
17)    Mercury
 
Product Details
Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Sufjan Stevens (vocals, bagpipe, piano, Mellotron, synthesizer, drum machine, programming); Nico Muhly (piano, celesta, organ); Bryce Dessner (guitar); James McAlister (synthesizer, Moog synthesizer, drums, percussion, programming); Rob Moose, Ben Russell (violin); Nadia Sirota (viola); Claire Bryant (cello); Joe Barati, Dan Levine (trombone, bass trombone); Ryan Keberle, Tim Albright, Ben Lanz, William Lang, George Flynn (trombone); Thomas Bartlett (piano, Mellotron).
  • Audio Mixers: Sufjan Stevens; James McAlister.
  • Recording information: Dreamland Recording Studios, West Hurley, NY (05/2013); Long Pond Studio, Hudson, NY (05/2013); Paris, France (05/2013); The Bank, Burbank, CA (05/2013); The Dwelling, Reservoir, NYC (05/2013); Dreamland Recording Studios, West Hurley, NY (08/2013); Long Pond Studio, Hudson, NY (08/2013); Paris, France (08/2013); The Bank, Burbank, CA (08/2013); The Dwelling, Reservoir, NYC (08/2013).
  • Creators: Sufjan Stevens; Nico Muhly; Bryce Dessner ; James McAlister.
  • Photographer: Stephanie Black .
  • Arranger: Nico Muhly.
  • A project that began as a commissioned work by the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven for composer Nico Muhly, Planetarium premiered in 2012 but was transformed by the arrival of this collaborative recording five years later. With Muhly, singer/lyricist Sufjan Stevens, the National guitarist Bryce Dessner, and drummer James McAlister receiving equal credit for the music, it also features a string quartet, seven trombonists, a keyboardist, and numerous instrument credits, including synths and programming, by the co-composers. Inspired by the Solar System, Planetarium's 17 tracks are named after celestial objects and related phenomena, with Stevens' often enigmatic lyrics focusing on the subjects of science and Greek and Roman mythology. (Falling after touring for his album Carrie and Lowell, Stevens has said it was a relief to work on something that wasn't personal.) "Hurricane heart/Hurricane haste/Wandering star/Put in its place" describes the planet "Jupiter." Like much of Planetarium, the song has a melancholy tone reinforced by humming, occasionally glitchy electronics. Its steady rhythm drops out halfway through, and filtered vocals proclaim: "Sermon of death says Jupiter is the loneliest planet." Distorted drums, mechanical noise, and eventually trombones warp the track into something more epic and ominous. Each piece is a musical mini-drama, to varying degrees and at widely fluctuating lengths, with the glistening wash of "Halley's Comet" lasting about 30 seconds, and "Earth" getting the most attention at around 15 minutes. Keyboard instruments ranging from piano, organ, and celeste to Mellotron, Moog, and other synths blend with strings, Dessner's lithe guitar, and Stevens' airy vocal timbre for a thematically atmospheric, unearthly effect across pieces that also contain passages of explosive percussiveness and symphonic grandeur (all of the above can be found on "Mars"). "Saturn" even develops into a pulsing club-type entry ("Tell me I'm evil/A Capricorn creature/A chemical addiction, first incision"). It's a sprawling effort with an over-70-minute running time, but also a haunting one, recommended for musically adventurous stargazers of all types. ~ Marcy Donelson
Professional Reviews
Pitchfork (Website) - "The supergroup's cosmic concerto features lush, lilting instrumentals unfurling from Stevens' tightly-wound pop choruses..."

Clash (magazine) - "Sufjan (et al) break each member of our celestial system down into musical bodies and tie themes of intimacy, war and the failings of parental figures to ambient instrumentals."
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