Sisyphus (formerly s/s/s) is made up of three incredibly talented artists: Son Lux, Serengeti, and Sufjan Stevens. Most of you may already know Sufjan Stevens, the smooth indie singer/songwriter. You would be surprised then to see that his latest project is teaming up with progressive hip hop producers Son Lux and Serengeti. All three artists are closely tied to anticon. records, or the label that Baths (the subject of my last artist overview) belongs to. Son Lux commands the arrhythmic electro beats. Serengeti adds his smooth flow with his raps and Sufjan’s style comes through with his beautiful vocal and dreamy synth lines, which contrast so drastically with the jumpy beats and Serengeti’s raps. Seriously, you will have to work pretty hard to find a group or artist who push the boundaries as much as Sisyphus do on their latest album. While at times, you feel that the tracks can be a bit confusing, you understand what they are trying to accomplish: a genre shattering musical exploration. I’ve chosen two tracks to focus on from Sisyphus: “Take Me” and “Rhythm of Devotion.” These two tracks are pretty different from each other, and I think they really show the versatility that Sisyphus tried to achieve with this album. “Take Me” is a thoughtful and understated track. It relies almost entirely on Son Lux and Sufjan Stevens. Son Lux constructs these intricate beats that somehow manage to feel smooth and flowing, despite being full of accidental and off-rhythm hits. These beats, coupled with Sufjan’s dream-like vocal and the simplicity of the synth lines, make a track that, to me, brings the image of a huge plume of smoke flowing over a mountain range: a blend of smooth and jagged, soft and rigid, flow and structure. It’s in these “in between” spaces that Sisyphus makes its living. This track is sensitive and honest, asking “will you kiss me on lips/ will you fill my lunar eclipse?” Now you might be thinking that this is all that Sisyphus have to offer. Sweet words that plead love layered over plush synth melodies and rigid electo beats… Yeah, not quite.
Take a listen to “Rhythm of Devotion” and you begin to understand what I meant by “in between” space above. Right off the bat, you’re smacked with a flurry of atonal synth lines and Serengeti’s aggressive, in your face, rap. Son Lux doubles up on rhythms here by putting rhythmic elements in both the percussion and the synth lines. Serengeti’s lyrics are deceptively loving, claiming simultaneously “I’ll be right, right where you stand” and “I don’t give no shit.” It’s not unusual to see this movement between beautiful and harsh as representative of Sisyphus’ entire philosophy. Indeed, at 2:00 you are graced with Sufjan Stevens’ smooth vocal and a chilled out sustained synth. And yet, just when you get comfortable with this new iteration of Sisyphus’ style, the two sides of their personality slam together into this blend of the hard hitting beat, surprisingly melodic synth, Sufjan’s vocal with bits of Serengeti’s rap chiming in. This track is a fucking 8 course meal that really never lets you rest or settle into any one style. That’s what Sisyphus try to do with this musical project, break down musical boundaries and maybe reach something that can speak to a much larger audience. Personally, I have a lot of respect for that.
Please listen to both of these tracks below! I’ve also added Sufjan Steven’s remake of Jaymes Young’s “Habits of My Heart” as a sampler of Sufjan’s new musical direction. I think that listening to this track adds a lot of context to Sisyphus and what they were trying to accomplish. Enjoy!