Reviewed by Ewan Jones
The imagination of American Sufjan Stevens is awe-inspiring, brilliant and more than a little bizarre. For those not yet intrigued by Stevens' long term project, it's simply this: to record an album reflecting his experiences and observations for all 50 states in the USA. A grand master plan that he is hardly likely to complete (so far he's managed his home state of Michigan, and the follow up Illinois). As you listen to this disc, you pinch yourself as you remember that these 21 tracks are merely the outtakes from the album 'Come On Feel The Illinoise'. Playing 'The Avalanche' is like watching the special features on a DVD to find that they're as entertaining and interesting as the film itself. Stevens played and recorded everything himself, with the help of a couple of backing singers and an additional drummer. God is brought up frequently in exciting and ambiguous lyrics, though his eclectic songs are pitched at a wider audience. Stylistically, there is a rootsy, American edge to the whole affair (Neil Young and Bob Dylan spring to mind) - Sufjan's voice is gentle and friendly, and his songs are knowingly manipulative, frequently beginning with a simple melody and dreamy guitar or raw mandolin, building up to experimental solos, brass bands, strings and flutes, and all manner of other ethnic instruments and percussion. More than just a bunch of outtakes, this disc has more creativity and sense of wonder than most albums.
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