Album Review... Sisyphus - Sisyphus

When Sufjan Stevens announces a new LP, citing a “wellspring of mad ideas” as inspiration, who knows where the hell we're going to end up. Even given his eclectic discography and penchant for sonic u-turns, few would have placed money he'd be talking about a hip-hop album commissioned by an art centre. Such a project would be folly, surely? Well, yes and no... If the trio's intent was to cut loose and have some fun with the idea, they've pretty much nailed it – albeit it in a typically idiosyncratic fashion.

Starting out as s / s / s, Sufjan, Son Lux and Serengeti now go by the name Sisyphus – which already takes me over my alliteration quota for this write up. Naming your album after the Greek myth-come-existentialist poster boy for futility perhaps isn't the most logical step, but if anything's to be taken at face value here then it's probably easier on the brain to see it as a knowing nod to the incongruence of the whole venture. But hey – as mainstream hip-hop increasingly leans towards the monumental to define itself (Kanye, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang's latest marketing ploy) why can't indie kids bump and grind? Postmodernism is the new rock'n'roll. So. Moving swiftly on... does it work?

Annoyingly, yes. It shouldn't, but it does. You've got three big characters here, each talent giving the other space – and though there are times the Venn diagrams could overlap a little more, ultimately this is as perfect a synthesis of worlds as one could hope for. Flow is smooth, beats are tight, arrangements are spacious and the harmonies are heartbreaking... Talented, talented bastards.

The first many will have heard from the LP would be Calm It Down, which forms as good an introduction as any. Throughout the album the trio trade off, taking turns to various degrees, occasionally wrestling their voices into the same space for disco lights and ambient fireworks. Some tracks are clearly more Serengeti than Sufjan and vice versa, but truth be told it's not so easy to tease authorship apart – nor is it rewarding. Countless little touches underscore the album, both harmonically and aesthetically, and it matters little whether an arrangement is distinctively Sufjan, Lux or Geti. One composes inwards, another composes outwards, and the other helps them meet in the centre – the results are as expansive, detailed and uncluttered as that would imply.

The most audacious tracks seem to do it all at once. Rhythm of Devotion is a tour de force, and deserves to be heard with an open mind and some good headphones. My Oh My is near schizophrenic in it's clash of minimal synth patterns, xylophone orchestral maneuvers and subby basslines, and elsewhere the album alternates between heartfelt pleas for friendship and pixellated porn raps. The final trilogy of tracks starting with Dishes in the Sink pack the biggest emotional punch, with all narrators seeming to reckon with themselves in their own way. Particularly, the discordant spiral into self-recrimination and out again of closer Alcohol implies there are more themes to this than just bling and ear-candy.

Time will tell where this project fits in all the artist's respective canons – have they created a game-changing revelation, or the hippest novelty record of 2014? For the moment, my advice is grab it with both hands – there are depths here worthy of investigation by more incisive critics than I, and chances are with good enough headphones you'll find some.