Ahead of the release of his debut album, Moses Sumney posted a “prose-poem essay” on Twitter. Titled ‘Break Up Letter’, it outlines the artist’s thoughts on love and lovelessness, themes that form the core of his debut album Aromanticism. In it, Moses considers mythological tales of the origin of love and questions whether our fear of loneliness and desire for love is inherent in our cellular makeup or something that is inherited through societal forces. Moses concludes the piece by offering a definition of his coinage “aromantic” which is to be “someone who doesn’t experience romantic love, or does to a diminished, abnormal degree.”

In some respects these are themes and ideas that Moses has been exploring since 2014 and his debut single ‘Man On The Moon’. Perhaps in recognition of this, his debut album opens with a reprise of this single, although here the song is abstracted to just the choral vocals that appear post-chorus. It’s also the clearest indication of how much Moses’ sound has evolved in the last 3 years. Whilst second track ‘Don’t Bother Calling’ opens with acoustic guitar and lo-fi vocals that recalls his earliest singles and EPs, there’s a sense of grandeur and space to ‘Man On The Moon (Reprise)’ that we haven’t seen from him before.

There’s always a risk that when an artist who has built their hype on lo-fi, bedroom productions enters the studio and changes their production style that something unique will be lost in the process. Fortunately Aromanticism doesn’t fall victim to this. Instead Moses has taken the quiet, introspective sound of his earlier singles and built upon it to create textured soundscapes that draw as much from ambient as they do jazz. Instead of casting Moses as a lone troubadour releasing heartfelt demo tapes, Aromanticism sees the artist lost and alone in space that is of no time and place.

These dreamy soundscapes are composed of a variety of instruments; plucked harps, electronic swells, soft percussion and meandering bass lines, but for the most part Aromanticism is an exercise in instrumental minimalism. ‘Quarrel’, for example, is rich in detail with harps, guitars, strings, percussion and choral vocals, but not only is space given to allow Sumney’s faltering falsetto to shine, but the production ensures that (for the most part) only one instrumental motif takes centre stage at any one time. The harp, which recalls the playing of Alice Coltrane, often takes the foreground here, whilst the bass sets a subtle rhythm and percussion is largely comprised of soft shakers that add a textural depth to the track. As the song progresses we get a crescendo of strings that help to build the song to a climax, before being stripped away to just Moses and a strummed acoustic guitar.

Throughout the album you get the sense that each of these songs was painstakingly constructed, such is the brilliance of their writing and production. There’s an intricacy to the arrangements that, whilst often creating these vast soundscapes, draws the listener further into Moses’ world of sound. This is an album where even the pauses feel considered. In ‘Lonely World’, the album’s extraordinary cathartic centrepiece, there’s a moment early into the track where the fingerpicked acoustic guitar cuts out just before the end of Moses’ line, leaving the singer performing a cappella. It’s a striking moment that really cuts into the sense of isolation that Aromanticism deals with. Moses finishes the line and there’s a few short seconds of silence before he takes a breath and continues. It’s as though he’s psyching himself up for whatever comes next.

On ‘Lonely World’ what comes next is a swell of electronics, guitars and a building percussive rhythm as the album finally lets loose, ascending into an infectious, uproarious crescendo - triumphant and free. Compared to the rest of Aromanticism, ‘Lonely World’ is almost the antithesis to the delicate soundscapes, but its placing at the album’s midpoint is telling. Aromanticism both builds up to, and collapses away from, ‘Lonely World’. By the time the album reaches ‘Doomed’ we find Moses in a darkly elegiac soundscape befitting the likes of Ian William Craig or Fennesz.

If the history of music is built on artists creating music about love, then Aromanticism is the alternative canon. In making Aromanticism, Moses Sumney wanted to create a concept album about lovelessness and what it means to be aromantic. In practice, Aromanticism imagines what jazz, bedroom pop, soul and electronica would be like if created by those who don’t experience romantic love. Aromanticism is an album that is heartfelt and heartbreaking, and, from the opening chorals to the closing moments of ‘Self Help Tape’, is an album like no other.