Monday, July 04, 2005

Year Of The Dragon-Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens has been gaining quite a lot of notoriety for his masterful folkie Americana suites about states (Greetings from Michigan, and the soon to be released Illinois). But this is the music he makes on too much drugs. Know Your Rabbit, the album this song is on, is a song cycle based on the Chinese calendar, and is largely electronicy and minimalist. Year of the dragon is probably the centrepiece of this cycle. Timed at 9:26, it is not the longest song, but it is probably the most grandiose and adventurous. The first half is highly reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells". It is hypnotically repetitive and builds slowly with a few new synthesized instruments added in over time. At about the four minute mark the piece changes dramatically. Time becomes compressed and the bass starts to play more and more powerful descending chords. It is a stunning and moving moment. Just as the crescendo seems like it can't go any further, the entire song dissolves into a bleepy interlude and it starts to build and move in a different direction. The song finally ends with a Morse code series of beeps and then a short cacophony of fuzzy bass.

I really like this song a lot. It is probably the one song on the whole album that made me feel it was worth buying. I also think I like it for the same reason that I like "Tubular Bells". It has a well structured flow and keeps my attention throughout. I'm quite curious what inspired Sufjan to pick this particular song as "Year of the Dragon". Supposedly people born in the year of the dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. This track, however, would probably be detestable to people with the above traits. Nevertheless, the track begins and ends like the roar of a dragon. 9/10.