Review Tuesday: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister – “Saturn”

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Sufjan Stevens, Nico Murly, Bryce Dessner, James McAlister
“Saturn”
Planetarium
4AD

Our solar system, despite everything the flat-earthers have claimed, is fascinating. An orderly system that contains eight planets—we’re currently looking for the possibility of the ninth planet beyond the Kuiper Belt—revolving a hot giant star in such precise movement somehow gives you some sense of tranquility, a semi-idyllic feeling that you keep when you feel everything else in your life regresses, the objects in firmament above keep moving and you should keep moving as well. You can always rely on the solar system when you need a stagnancy, something steadfast that you can hold on to when everything around your life changes. Outer space is timeless, and that’s why music exploring the space theme sounds futuristic, with robotic voice, cadence, and constant beat, to keep up with the ever-changing time.

When Stevens, Dessner, and Muhly first played “Saturn” almost five years ago, it’s infused with orchestral vibe, adorned by fiddle string and piano. In the studio version, gone are all those obsolete instruments, replaced by heavy synthesizers and McAlister’s skittering drum rolls. Stevens’ voice, his greatest treasure to all mankind, is masked by auto-tune to give futuristic and portentous atmosphere, something that he’s never done since his Sisyphus project. In Roman myth, Saturn is sometimes deemed as the equivalence of Chronos, the keeper of time, and their “Saturn” takes you in a trippy journey to the future. It unbreaks the boundaries of time that fetter you. “Saturn” weirdly gives you a bit of chilly nostalgic feeling as you time-travel to the future and you reminisce your present life at the same time. At the end of the song, Stevens states that he’s the evil, he’s not the love, yet he sounds like correcting himself when love is echoed until the song grows silent. They contradict themselves; they’re not not the love, but they’re the harbinger of love. “Saturn” is probably just another twisted love song.

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