Moses Sumney is an artist who defies categorisation, blending soul, jazz and art-rock. He has collaborated with a wide range of artists, from Thundercat and Sufjan Stevens to the Cinematic Orchestra and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
Having moved back and forth between Southern California and Accra in Ghana during his youth, Sumney broke into the LA music scene after studying at the University of California in Los Angeles, where he majored in creative writing and poetry. He didn’t learn to play any instruments until he was older, instead focusing on writing a cappella music. As collaborated with artists like Beck and Solange, and opened concerts for Sufjan Stevens and James Blake while developing his own unique sound.
Sumney’s first full-length album Aromanticism was released in 2017, with a second studio album, græ, released in 2020. Both albums have been received widespread critical acclaim.
He has also worked alongside Oscar-winning film composer Ludwig Göransson on the soundtrack to Creed, which he also appeared in as an actor.
Not content with just being in front of the camera, Sumney has self-directed music videos including Cut Me and Quarrel, both of which have been nominated for and won several awards.
What does Moses Sumney’s music sound like?
Sumney’s music blends orchestral and electronic textures, with his unique voice rising and falling above the rest of the dense orchestrations.
His music is difficult to define, with such a wide range of influences and the exploration of different soundworlds and textures. ‘I definitely rage against being classified as RnB,’ Sumney told the Guardian in 2020. ‘I love RnB and I think there are elements of it in the music, and on this record (græ) I went even closer to it than I have in the past. But it’s obviously very obviously racist when people call me an RnB act.’
Sumney explained that he would define his sound as ‘an amalgamation of soul, jazz, folk and experimental indie rock.’
Moses Sumney’s music is cinematic, slow-moving and intensely lyrical. Its intimate, with deeply personal, emotional lyrics which explore subjects of desire and passion.
His music videos are highly original, often featuring dance, movement and narrative, set in technicolour landscapes. This contrasts with Sumney’s monochrome style, which has led to him becoming something of a fashion darling.
In 2020, he directed a film in collaboration with fashion designer Thom Browne, which was inspired by the 1924 and 1936 Olympic Games and a ‘balance between masculine and feminine, athleticism and grace… the power of sport, a ballet of bodies in motion.’
When is Moses Sumney performing at the BBC Proms?
Moses Sumney will join conductor Jules Buckley and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms on Saturday 21 August at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He will perform symphonic arrangements of songs from his 2020 and 2017 albums græ and Aromanticism.
You can find a complete schedule for this year’s BBC Proms here.