[Anticon; 2012]

Fans of Sufjan Stevens can rejoice, safe in the knowledge that even if he’s not currently making music under his own moniker, he is still collaborating and experimenting with a variety of colourful artists to bring fans new material. The latest release from one of these projects comes in the form of “Museum Day,” a track serving as the love-child of Stevens and s/s/s, his collaboration with Anticon label-mates Serengeti and Son Lux, who are to be releasing an EP entitled Beak and Claw in late March. A somewhat dark-natured track, it appears that autotune is the key here, showing that Stevens has really fallen in love with this technique. The results on “Museum Day” are something of a mixed-bag, although it’s still admittedly an interesting sonic experiment. Stevens’ autotuned opening is a bit lengthy and proves to be an excessive indulgence, but once the track gets moving and Serengeti starts rapping, it’s pleasant enough. And, knowing Sufjan, there’s a solid chorus repeated throughout. It’s a lengthy track, but it remains interesting enough to warrant being over six minutes, with a fairly powerful build-up into a clashing climax.

Of course, the real question remains as to why Sufjan is spending so much of his time fiddling about with autotune. While it is his creative choice to do so, it’s certainly possible when listening to “Museum Day” to miss hearing his normal, gentle vocal style. Stevens is a talented vocalist who doesn’t require autotune, and so his frequent engagement with it suggests that he’s got it into his head that autotune is just another instrument to be adapted in order to compliment a song. And, while he is arguably successful in his other recent release with Rosie Thomas, “Where Were You?”, his autotuned vocals in “Museum Day” don’t quite sit right with this listener. Serengeti’s raps don’t gel quite as neatly with Stevens’ vocals as they could, and the track comes off sounding a little imbalanced as a result. That said, it’s always refreshing to see collaborations, and if nothing else, Beak and Claw will be an interesting musical excursion for Stevens and his respective partners.