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Something old, something new for Michael Stipe

NEW YORK — After Michael Stipe opens a gate to the abandoned Manhattan storefront that serves as his studio, you find a man easily traversing his past, present and future creative lives.

He’s promoting a 25th anniversary package of the R.E.M. album “Monster” while excited by the response to the first single he’s released since the band’s 2011 retirement. Surrounding him are examples of the photography and visual art that has occupied much of his time since then.

He made the single, “Your Capricious Soul,” available first on his website last month with proceeds going to the environmental group Extinction Rebellion. He held it back from streaming services for a month, a quiet protest against monopolistic behavior, but it’s there now.

The song’s throbbing electronic pulse and percussion mark a clean musical break from the guitar-based rock of R.E.M.

Stipe would generally write lyrics to R.E.M. songs with music composed by bandmates Peter Buck, Mike Mills and, until he left the band in 1997, Bill Berry. With “Your Capricious Soul,” it was all on him.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “That’s why I’m doing it.”

Pleased by the reaction, Stipe said he expects more new music soon. He has no record company, so he’s free to release it whenever and however he wants.

“It sounds great,” said Rita Houston, program director at WFUV-FM in New York. “It sounds fantastic to hear Michael’s voice on the radio in this new incarnation. The song sounds nothing like an R.E.M. song, but it sounds completely like Michael Stipe. It’s very 2019.”

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