Sisyphus - Sisyphus

by Jim Harris Rating:10 Release Date:2014-03-17

Sisyphus was famous in Greek mythology for being the Corinthian king doomed to push a boulder up a hill, have it roll back down, and then have to push up it back for all eternity. True original rock 'n' roll. This is probably the only relationship this name has to this incredible new musical collaboration. 

This album is true original rock 'n' roll. When a hot hip-hop producer musician collaborates with an equally cool rapper and then is joined by an eclectic, brilliant Detroit singer/songwriter, good results come of it. Sisyphus is a moody, beaty collection of hip-hop, rap and edgy, mellow songs which fit together with an incredible cohesion.

The first song, and arguably the best, ‘Calm It Down’, sets a mellow, trippy hip-hop tone which introduces the listener to one of the finest collaborative albums, made of mismatched parts, ever assembled. It's also illustrative of the musical brush-strokes thrown onto this canvas so well.  The hip-hop is mellow and dark, and wrapped around church-like noises which are signature Sufjan Stevens. 

For the most part, the occasional flourishes of odd keyboards and bursts of horns which punctuate, inundate, and wrap all around the songs on this album transform this project into an epic. The touches Sufjan add to each song blend and fill out the rap and hip-hop into a beautifully evocative whole.

This is not just a moody, trippy album, however. It gets dark and borders on wonderfully creepy at times. It’s at its creepiest on the Sufjan song ‘Take Me’, where Sufjan repeatedly, in his wistfully innocent, melancholic voice, keeps pleading to be taken to your room; he’ll be your friend. Regardless of what he might say, anyone who has listened to the song ‘John Wayne Gacy’ from his classic album Illinois knows this is 'John Wayne Gacy Part 2'… Or it at least evokes such a correlation.

But what truly brings out the Sufjan undertones of Sisyphus is the understated rap and hip-hop flourishes which make up many of the songs. Try out the song ‘Flying Aces’ as a beatific blend of potent rap lyrics strung into and hanging off of avant-garde sullen electronics. It all works. And just as much as Son Lox’s production elevates Sufjan’s quirky, cool style of synth-pop throughout, the rap slaps from Serengeti add just the right amount of abrasions as well.

We ain't getting any younger
Go read it, don't treat it like a phoenix
Burn where the baby goes, tell me about the other boys
Do they love you like a Playboy? Or a Gameboy?
Here's my crescendo, put away Nintendo
We don't need no curtains on the window
Let me see your banks, let me see your books
Let me see your legs, let me see your hooks
Sing an opera, candelabra
Imma gonna get a condom, put it on my monster
Wanna see my light show?
I can tell you want to go
Boom
Imma gonna kiss you like a bubble in the brooks

Usually with such a potent mix of three talented artists the individual parts always outshine the whole. Try any Monsters of Folk album, for instance. But Sisyphus, which was tasked with being the musical accompaniment to the artwork of Jim Hodges, isn’t just a hodgepodge of modern music sensibilities, but truly a cohesive slab of melodic dissonance that is every bit as brilliant, impressive, and visceral as the work of Jim Hodges. 

Sisyphus is one great album and is a fitting accompaniment to the Jim Hodges work that is on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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