Last February, Moses Sumney shared the first morsel of the Grae adventure. In the interlude entitled “also also and and and”, the artist claimed, “I insist upon my right to be multiple”. This sentence is the key to a project that can finally be appreciated in its entirety. Sumney is not a man who likes to be put in a box. Rejecting black and white, he chooses the grey that gives its name to the album title. Not caring for the preconceptions that less open minds have when it comes to racial or sexual identity, he follows in the footsteps of Prince and Little Richard who, like him, took a devilish pleasure in playing the ambiguity card.
Musically speaking, the soul label that is often lazily attached to African-American musicians fits poorly here. After having set the table with the excellent Aromanticism in 2017, Sumney lays out the whole buffet: pop, folk, rock, jazz, classical, electronic… Grae is much more ambitious. For help in this colossal undertaking, Sumney has called on no less than 40 producers and musicians, including James Blake, Thundercat, Daniel Lopatin, and Shabaka Hutchings. The Esbjörn Svensson Trio are sampled one the smooth and jazzy “Gagarin”. It’s especially in the first part of the album that this eclecticism prevails. The catchy pop refrains of the very effective “Cut Me”, “Virile” and “Conveyor” mix with more experimental electronic passages.
The second half of the project is much more ethereal. The singer invests his magnificent falsetto into layers of ambient synths and sober guitar chords, as on the exquisite “Keeps Me Alive̦”. After eloquently demonstrating the extent of his creative abilities in the first chapter of Grae, Sumney lays himself bare and shows himself in his most vulnerable light. He takes the beautiful risk of being himself in all his multiplicity, and proves to us that he is an outstanding creator that will be difficult to ignore from now on.