It’s been four years this month since Sufjan Stevens released his last full record Come on Feel the Illinoise. For a man who once declared that he would release an album for each of America’s 50 states – and for the uniquely dedicated fans who follow the indie-rock wunderkind – four years is an awfully long delay.
Fans don’t have much longer to wait, however, although Stevens’ next release may not be quite what they expected. The BQE is a multimedia set based on a live performance Stevens’ put on back in November of ’07 of the same name. Inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York The BQE was, at least in the words of Pitchfork, “an over-the-top affair with an orchestra, artsy footage of the highway, and hula hoops.”
Pitchfork may not have been impressed (when are they, really?) but the show was a success, selling out all three nights of it’s run at the Howard Gilman Opera House in downtown Brooklyn. So why has it taken two years to release the BQE set? Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Records explains:
One week following the performances, Sufjan and his orchestra went into the studio to record the soundtrack, but afterwards, feeling disenfranchised by the magnitude of the universe, Sufjan decided to shelve the project. Until now. Two years later, Sufjan found inspiration to mix the music, edit the video and expand the project to include photographs, liner notes, a comic book, and a stereoscopic image reel—a multi-media package that attempts to render this much-loathed urban expressway into a conscionable work of art.
According to the press release, the two-disc album will include the original film on DVD, the original soundtrack on CD, 40 pages of photos and liner notes, and a View-Master reel, created by illustrator Stephen Halker. Oddly, the set does not appear to include footage of the original live performance.
A limited-edition vinyl version will be available as well, and will include the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, a large-scale 32-page booklet with liner notes and photographs, and a 40-page Hooper Heroes comic book. All this will be kicked off on October 24th at 92YTribeca where they will show the film and feature a string quartet performance of selections from the upcoming “re-imagining” of Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit album.
Sufjan Stevens certainly has his skeptics, but you’ve got to hand it to the man for consistently pushing the envelope. His deliberate and borderline reclusive nature in many ways contradicts the direction the rest of the industry has been heading in recent years. Yet, he has managed come up with an impressive string of innovative ideas to keep his fans engaged. Melodrama aside, the BQE should be a great example of an artist providing extra value to give fans plenty of reason to buy an album.
Here’s a preview to hold you over until October: