Full of thrilling, imaginative textures, Stranger to Stranger conjures a vivid and vital new context to Simon’s well-established virtuosity as a singer and songwriter. The record—his first since 2011’s acclaimed So Beautiful or So What—ushers the listener into a brave new musical world where expectations are defied and exceeded, as they were thirty years ago with another masterwork, Graceland.
Produced by Simon and his longtime musical partner Roy Halee, Stranger to Stranger’s adventurous sonic spirit is abundantly clear right from the darkly humorous first two songs, "The Werewolf” and "Wristband.”
"It’s about getting you to actually hear something in a new way. It’s about making music that sounds old and new at the same time; music with a sense of mystery,” Simon explains of his and Halee’s experimentation on the album.
The first song written for the album, "Insomniac’s Lullaby,” led Simon to the musical possibilities first suggested by Harry Partch—the 20th century American composer and theorist who created custom-made instruments in microtonal tunings. To capture the sounds of Partch’s unusual instruments such as Cloud-Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon, Simon took his equipment to the laboratory at Montclair State University in New Jersey, where the original Harry Partch instrument collection was being curated.
An experimental session with the percussionist in Simon’s band and a group of Flamenco musicians provided the initial rhythmic premise for Stranger to Stranger and supplied the grooves that were the basis for four songs on the album—"The Riverbank,” "The Werewolf,” "Wristband” and "Stranger to Stranger.”
Stranger to Stranger’s collage of sound also includes the Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap!, whose album Tayi Bebba, blending African field recordings and EDM, Simon admired. Clap! Clap!’s sound can be heard on three tracks: "The Werewolf,” "Wristband” and "Street Angel.”
"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,” explains Simon. "The right song at the right time can live for generations. A beautiful sound, well that's forever.”