The Age of Adz dares listeners to swim in its mad flow—an endlessly mutable itchy-glitchy-witchy collusion of synthesized textures, choral sweeps and the often ethereal passion of Sufjan Stevens’s vocals. Given the full-on shift to candy-colored clouds of keyboard tones and squiggly rhythms, it’s tempting to consider this the songwriter’s glo-fi move: an epic discourse on life, love and their discontents embroidered in impish, floaty electronica.
If your idea of a perfect indie album is 2005’s Illinois, much of this could be way outside the comfort zone. But Stevens already was pushing past his sonic signatures with last year’s stellar The BQE, a symphonic piece for the oft-maligned New York expressway that conflated Aaron Copland and Hula-hoops. He goes much further here, and we have to admit, lines like “Vesuvius?/?I am here?/?You are all I have?/?Fire of fire,” sung in the lilting cadence of a plaintive hymn, seem kind of Wha…? But stick it out through all 25 minutes of the penultimate track, “Impossible Soul,” and you may turn giggly with joy. Even though Adz boasts some pop songs (“Too Much” is a gem), it’s this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink maximalist mini opera that justifies every gambit taken. Reportedly inspired by the late Louisiana folk artist Royal Robertson, a self-invented prophet who painted spaceships and archangels to cope with severe schizophrenia, these songs explicate a fantasy world with fantastic inventiveness.
Sufjan Stevens visits Chicago Theatre Friday 15.