by Nico MuhlyJames McAlister


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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.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/09/2017
Label: 4Ad
UPC: 0191400000926
catalogNumber: 926
Rank: 89046

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Nico Muhly   Primary Artist,Organ,Bass,Piano,Celeste
Joe Barati   Trombone,Bass Trombone
Dan Levine   Trombone,Bass Trombone
William Lang   Trombone
Tim Albright   Trombone
Thomas Bartlett   Piano,Mellotron
Sufjan Stevens   Synthesizer,Bagpipes,Piano,Keyboards,Vocals,Chant,Mellotron,Prophet Synthesizer,Prophet 5
George Flynn   Trombone
James McAlister   Organ,Synthesizer,Percussion,Drums,Moog Synthesizer,Jupiter 6,Acetate
Bryce Dessner   Guitar
Claire Bryant   Cello
Rob Moose   Violin
Ben Lanz   Trombone
Ryan Keberle   Trombone
Nadia Sirota   Viola
Ben Russell   Violin

Technical Credits

Alison Fielding   Layout
Thomas Bartlett   Engineer,Vocal Engineer
Sufjan Stevens   Composer,Programming,Engineer,drum machine,Creation
Jim Hodges   Artwork,Images
Ragnar Kjartansson   Artwork
James McAlister   Composer,Programming,Engineer,Creation
Bryce Dessner   Composer,Engineer,Creation
Marcel Dzama   Artwork
Stephen Halker   Artwork
Nico Muhly   Arranger,Composer,Creation
Chad Copelin   Engineer
Deborah Johnson   Producer,Project Design
Brandon Reid   Engineer,Live Sound Engineer
Jessica Dessner   Artwork,Cover Art,Cover Image
Jonathan Low   Engineer
Matthew Ritchie   Artwork
Karl Jensen   Artwork
Nathlie Provosty   Artwork,Images
David Huffman   Artwork
Mehreen Murtaza   Artwork
Saya Woolfalk   Artwork
Cecily Brown   Artwork

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