Inside Paul Simon's New Album 'Stranger to Stranger'
Paul Simon spent the past five years (his previous album, So Beautiful or So What was released in 2011). crafting his new album (Simon's 13th solo studio album) knowing he'd have to create something extraordinary if he wanted it to stand up to the best work from his past.
"Sound is the theme of this album as much as it's about the subjects of the individual songs. If people get that, I'll be pleased," Simon says. "The right song at the right time can live for generations. A beautiful sound, well that's forever."
The end result is Stranger to Stranger (out June 3rd on Concord Records) an experimental album heavy on echo and rhythm that fuses electronic beats with African woodwind instruments, Peruvian drums, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers.
“There are a lot of preconceptions [about my new work] because I have been familiar to the public for 50 years," Simon says. "They go, 'Is it going to be Graceland? Is it going to be 'Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard?' Simon and Garfunkel? The Capeman?' To get people to listen with open ears, you have to really make something that is interesting because people are prepared for it not to be interesting."
Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap! (Cristiano Crisci) provides beats on the tracks "The Werewolf," "Street Angel" and "Wristband," the latter of which is now streaming.
Simon and Clap!clap! met up in in 2015 when Simon's world tour touched down in Milan, Italy. "My 23-year-old son Adrian is a composer and he told me about him," says Simon. "He takes African sound samples and puts digital dance grooves behind it. His newest album is a masterpiece. He makes music sound new and old at the same time."
Most of the album was recorded at Simon's home studio in Connecticut, with Clap! Clap! and Simon communicating via e-mail. But in 2013, the sessions briefly moved to Montclair State University where unique, custom-made instruments, such as the Cloud-Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon, created by the mid-20 century music theorist Harry Partch, are stored.
The album is co-produced by 81-year-old Roy Halee, whose working relationship with Simon goes back to the original Simon and Garfunkel demos in 1964.
Stranger to Stranger track listing:
1. The Werewolf
3. The Clock
4. Street Angel
5. Stranger to Stranger
6. In a Parade
7. Proof of Love
8. In the Garden of Edie
9. The Riverbank
10. Cool Papa Bell
11. Insomniac’s Lullaby