Touring a new album that’s draped in longing and his distinct, daring vocals, Hamilton Leithauser comes to Portland’s Star Theater on Jan. 20.
Our expectations for supergoups tend to skew to two sides: a fantastic meshing of individual creative styles for a wholly unexpected result, or a tentative grouping of talents that never seems to equal the sum of its parts. Sisyphus falls cleaner in the former camp.
Made up of Sufjan Stevens, rapper Serengeti, and trip-hop luminary Son Lux, Sisyphus is a strong collaboration of unique talents that birthed a stellar eponymous full-length in 2014. Sisyphus is a hip hop album at its core, but the elements comprising the project produce a range of eclectic sounds and influences. Elements of folk can be found in some of the songs’ hooks, and shimmering trip-hop beats fly around chaotically. Serengeti’s clean vocals ground the tracks, but only insofar as acting as a springboard for the exploratory blends of harmonies, electronic twangs, and powerful synth layering.
Most of the tracks feature a minimalist rap feel with a straight beat and a clean vocal line. On most of the songs, it is this baseline that serves as a return for the added layers. Tinkling synth hooks build and organ chords add roots that continue to grow throughout. Occasionally, at a track’s apex, it could pivot into a full-on dance track. Instead they tend to blow up and then slowly spread, seeping outward and dripping back toward the starting point. This formula is followed throughout the album, in various ways, to different levels of success—though never to a disappointing outcome. Ultimately, though, this collaboration of creative minds somehow manages to equal more than the sum of its parts. »
– Charles Trowbridge