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Michael Stipe Unveils First Music Since R.E.M.’s Breakup

Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Since R.E.M. broke up in 2011, singer Michael Stipe has been relatively quiet. He released a duet with Courtney Love on an album of pirate songs last year, but besides that, the enigmatic frontman has laid kinda low on the music front.

But with the recent news of guitarist Peter Buck’s new band, bassist Mike Mills’ gigs with indie artists across the country and a recent motherlode of R.E.M. rarities, Stipe has finally broken his silence.

Salon has his first new music since R.E.M.’s breakup: an instrumental piece for his filmmaker pal Tom Gilroy’s ‘The Cold Lands.’ Stipe collaborated on the music with Andy LeMaster from the band Now It’s Overhead, which is based in Athens, GA — the same college town where R.E.M. got their start almost 35 years ago.

The track itself is an ambient work that drifts along an electronic current. It even recalls, in its tuneful melody, latter-day R.E.M. songs, where the band experimented and expanded the basic rock setup it had operated under for years.

There are no vocals in the track, so don’t get into it expecting an R.E.M.-sounding song on that front. When asked why he didn’t sing on the cut, Stipe told Salon, “I just didn’t want to.”

The soundscape Stipe paints here is intriguing, and may point to a direction the singer will take on any upcoming solo work. He hasn’t talked much about a solo career since R.E.M.’s split three years ago. And apparently he isn’t thinking too much about it either.

“Music is like emotion,” Stipe told Salon. “It takes such a huge amount of effort and headspace to move around. And I can step away from that for several years and be very happy.”

In other words: Enjoy this piece of music. It may be a while before we hear anything from Stipe again.

Next: 10 Best R.E.M. Songs

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