Some collaborations are so bizarre that they just have to work. Sisyphus (formerly S / S / S) is a collaborative project between heartthrob and all around adorable indie troubadour Sufjan Stevens, frighteningly talented producer Son Lux, and criminally underrated avant-rapper Serengeti. Coming from three wildly different musical backgrounds, the trio have somehow found a way to make their blend of expansive elegance, experimental production, and surreal lyricism to work superbly well.
With vocal duties shared between all three members, the record continually shifts between elegantly composed indie, and challenging hip-hop that refuses to abide by any structural rules. These shifts are gracefully executed, allowing none of the sudden changes to ever feel jarring. Elements from all three members’ solo projects are always evident, but only in fleeting moments. The overall result of the record should be an evolving mess, but instead it works as a wonderfully whole package. At 51 minutes, the record is as expansive as Sufjan’s best work, as varied as Son Lux’s, and as hypnagogic as Serengeti’s.
Partly inspired by the work of experimental installation artist Jim Hodges, the record draws most of its lyrical influences from fragile themes that come as a part of life. Continually referencing temporality and mortality, it’s not a record concerned with beauty, despite frequently embracing it. On the vast ‘Take Me’, Sufjan’s lyricism varies wildly in tone, yet always remains poetic. “Will you fill my lunar eclipse?” he asks, before later going on to sputter “I’ve got pictures in my hand, over the thought of you in my bed.” It’s more of the real, and less of the ideal.
The fragility of Sufjan juxtaposes with the grit of Serengeti – but, both of them bring forth realities without a concern for how they’ll be perceived. Finishing with the confessional ‘Alcohol’, the record folds in on itself as Serengeti signs off with a simple, but crass muttering of “I’ll suck at your dick with the devil’s integrity.” Sisyphus is easily the boldest project to come from any three of its members, and that’s saying a lot.
More like this
Not so much a call to arms as an exploration of the individual’s ability to disassociate from the norm.
Its sheer scale can be as daunting as the vastness of what lies beyond the stratosphere.
Cerebral in the extreme, a sea of chin-stroking ale drinkers replacing the chaos that defines festival season for many.
By going through it all, by exposing all the pain, Sufjan’s created something beautiful and vital.