Eschewing the fascistically weighted S/S/S moniker, the incongruous collaboration of Chicago rapper Serengeti, transcendental baroque singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and grandiloquent musician/producer Son Lux continues apace under the umbrella Sisyphus, named after a Corinthian king from Greek mythology whose eternal punishment was to repeatedly roll a huge boulder up a hill.
The rock these guys are rolling has become heavier, metamorphosing from a planned EP into a full album as a result of working together in the studio over an intense three-week period, in a self-confessed “creative orgy” of talents.
To extend matters further, it’s a loosely based concept suite referencing the abstract painting of New York-based installation artist Jim Hodges, utilising the existential themes of his work to propel their writing. Serengeti’s fluidly flowing rhymes and intimate characterisation is bolstered in its boldness by the melancholic refrains of Stevens and the multi-tracking master production by Lux.
It’s a potent, intense, impetuous record, as stimulating as it is uneven, careering between ecstatic pastoralism, speaker-shredding beats, Nile Rodgers-style space grooves, old-school New York hip-hop and Moroder synths in an elaborate emotional curve.
Much like Hodges’ work, each track feels flamboyant, even ornamental on the surface; these are shimmering, slippery songs that belie a darkness and sangfroid starkness. They clearly relish working together, though one can’t help but wonder if this would have made three amazing individual works. An ostentatiously operatic tour de force.
Words: Anna Wilson
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