Posted: August 11, 2021 in MUSIC
Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine

When two great songwriters have the opportunity to build off each other’s strengths and habits in just the right environment, sublime work has the chance to flourish. Such has been the case thus far with Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, who last month delivered the divine singles “Reach Out” and “Olympus,” from their new collaborative LP “A Bbeginner’s Mind” due out September 24th on Asthmatic Kitty. Today (Aug. 10), they’ve shared a further two new songs, “Back to Oz” and “Fictional California,” both expressive and emotional tracks that keep in line with the album’s theme of taking inspiration from various films, coming from 1985’s Return to Oz and 2004’s Bring It On Again, respectively.

“Fictional California’’ is soulful and intimate, recalling some of the best works of each songwriter. Instrumentally sparse and following a gentle rhythm, the song’s vocals seem to envelope you in the gorgeous refrain, which features lyrics “open your light to the darkness / open your heart, let it all hang out.” “Back to Oz,” on the other hand, is much more substantial and instrumentally full, featuring a catchy refrain, gorgeous layered drums, noisy drums and a groovy bass. While both artists thrive in minimalism, it’s thrilling to hear their efforts being translated into a grander sound so successfully.

De Augustine says of “Back to Oz,” “The words reference an erosion of a central character’s internal reality. A loss of innocence is the impetus for a journey to find inner truth. In the film, Dorothy returns to the world of Oz to find its landscape in ruins and its citizens frozen in stone. Only she can find the ruby slippers and return peace to Oz. Only we can save ourselves, but we first have to remember who we truly are.” The track arrives with a music video directed by Alex Horan and animated by Clara Murray.

A Beginner’s Mind, was conceived when the artists embarked on a song writing retreat at a friend’s cabin in upstate New York, the project developed after the pair noticed their music reflecting the movies they’d watch daily to unwind. The result is an album inspired by classic films, leading to “less a “cinematic exegesis,” per a press release, and more a “rambling philosophical inquiry” that allows the songs to free-associate at will.”

The album itself is named after the Zen Buddhist concept of “shoshin,” which refers to the state of seeing and accepting the world around you openly, like a child. Stevens and De Augustine employed that mindset to write music without preconceived notions restricting the creative flow.

The pair have released “Reach Out” and “Olympus,” ahead of the album, both undeniably gorgeous and personal acoustic-based tracks from two songwriters renowned for their specialty in that field. Featuring lyrics that drift from the confessional to the divine, the artists sound centered, vulnerable and alive. “Reach Out” arrives with a video shot by the two artists, featuring their beloved dogs and edited by Jess Calleiro.

“A Beginner’s Mind” by Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine available on CD, LP, Cassette, & Digital September 24th, 2021

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