Long before Sufjan Stevens relocated to a winter wonderland with his Silver and Gold Christmas song set, the florid indie folk star was preoccupied with much-maligned New York highway the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Before releasing 2010’s Age of Adz (the proper follow-up to 2005’s career-making Illinois) Stevens dropped The BQE, a multimedia project consisting of an original film and orchestral soundtrack dedicated to the six-lane roadway, in 2009. Now, as Stereogum notes, a non-instrumental leftover from that era titled “Which One Are You?” has surfaced on the ambitious songsmith’s Tumblr with the following message: “Which One Are You? demo sketch from the BQE, circa 2007/2008? weird rubbish you find on old hard drives.”
“Which One Are You?” was apparently banished from The BQE because of a legal dispute with the sampled supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, according to Stevens, who wrote he “could not clear melody w/ ELP publishers. The Endless Enigma of intellectual property. One person’s homage is another lawyer’s annoyance, I guess.” Lifting the vocal throughline from ELP’s jazz-anthem collage “The Endless Enigma (Part 1)” (off 1972’s Trilogy album), “Which One Are You?” starts off like vintage “50 States” Sufjan: wordy, mystic lyrics gently delivered over sighing harmonies that pour from what couldn’t possibly be the mouths of angels, and paired with swirling strings to make you second-guess that skepticism. Then the Age of Adz‘s fuzzy electronic loops briefly bounce in and out, establishing this piece of The BQE as a path from Stevens’ character-driven chamber pop to the rubbery buzz he occasionally matches with an Auto-Tuned croon. By the end of the road, bleep-bloop beats hijack the sometimes hip-hop-inclined singer’s holier than thou instrumentation. Hear it below.