Release Date: Jun 23, 2015
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Few artists have breached genre and shifted shape as often as Son Lux’s Ryan Lott. A classically trained musician, Lott’s mercurial musical soundscapes have crossed paths with everyone from Arcade Fire’s Richard Perry to Beyoncé producer Boots to Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti (as one-third of the experimental trio Sisyphus)—just to name a few. But even with those vast and varied collaborations, Son Lux has remained largely a solo endeavor.
Ever adapting his creative process, composer/keyboardist/singer/producer Ryan Lott enlisted his Lanterns touring bandmembers, guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, to co-write the fourth Son Lux album, the first recorded as a band. The recording and processing techniques Lott has continued to refine from previous albums, including digitally manipulating acoustic instrument recordings, are on full display on Bones, with exotic rhythms, startling anthems, and those organic-mechanical timbres forming a bold song set with an unshakably dystopian feel. Chang's herky-jerky, rhythmically tantalizing drumming style is a perfect complement to Lott's crackling, distraught-sounding singing voice, both evident on the relentlessly irregular "Flight," also with melodic eruptions of flute voicings, experimental noise guitar, and disquieting lyrics: "Are we now what we'll be?/Are we fixed or free?" "You Don't Know Me," described by Bhatia as expressing defiance of political and organizational oppression ("I feel you tracing my scars, but you don't know me"), is sultry, alarm-riddled art-dance-rock with an inspired, out-of-the-blue rhythm section break with Andrews Sisters-style guest chanteuses.
If anyone thought that Son Luxs expansion to a conventional guitar-drums-vocals three-piece hailed the end of front man Ryan Lott’s sonic experimentation, then fourth album Bones comes like an almighty, juggernaut to the face. With drummer Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia added for a beefier, live band feel, the complexities of composition have been pushed even further than 2013’s Lanterns , and at all times the music threatens to tip into wonderful cataclysm. With a knack of bringing order to heaps of seemingly chaotic and dissonant sounds, and fashioning melody out of the unorthodox, it’s no wonder that Lott has amassed an impressive list of collaborators from the more discerning corners of the mainstream.
The name Ryan Lott might not be one you’ve heard of – yet – but he gets about a bit. Lott scores music for film (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and Cara Delevingne’s debut as a movie lead, Paper Towns) and is one third of experimental alternative hip-hop trio Sisyphus, along with Serengeti and Sufjan Stevens. Lott, plus bandmates Rafiq Bhatia and Ian Chang, represent the current incarnation of Son Lux.
It’s almost misleading to say that Bones is the first full-band Son Lux album. Ryan Lott—the film- and dance-score composer, former ad-music man, and mastermind of Son Lux since the 2008 release of At War with Walls & Mazes—has never been one to go it alone. He’s a constant collaborator, whether it be with Lorde, Boots, Shara Worden of My Brighest Diamond, or teaming up with Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti for Sisyphus.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Every sound on Bones lives in the foreground. On (sort of) opener 'Change Is Everything', the chorus erupts for a snare tone that sounds like a revving engine while warming keyboard strokes ground each jolt. It's exciting, and establishes early on how overarching and direct everything Son Lux produces is.
Having collaborated with everyone from Lorde, to Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti on joint project Sisyphus, ‘Bones’ sees Ryan Lott stepping back to centre-stage, while expanding Son Lux into a three-piece. The addition of Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia only amps up Lott’s innate theatricality, and while it’s still rooted in all things digital, this is Son Lux’s most intensively orchestral album yet. Stamping Lott’s own unmistakable voice on every square foot of post-rock concrete, ‘Bones’ draws on last record ‘Lantern’s frayed threads of invention, and hones it down into a singular pursuit of drama.At times, that drama can feel just a smidge overblown.
“This moment changes everything,” trembles Son Lux, as a drum blasts through what sounds like concrete blocks, choral samples swell and distorted strings flutter drowsily like mechanical butterflies that need winding up. Bones certainly tries to change the confines of pop production, at least. Lux has collaborated with Sufjan Stevens, Lorde and Beyoncé’s producer Boots, which hints at the sort of electro-classical/experimental/R&B style he deals in.
During “Change Is Everything”, the lead single off of Son Lux’s fourth album, Bones, Ryan Lott asserts the project’s pervading thesis: “This moment, change is everything. ” Despite beatsmithing for alt rappers and teaming with Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti in Sisyphus, his previous work under the Son Lux heading trapped him in dark compositional corners. Lott likely aimed to stir things up by adding guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, but throwing some new faces into the mix isn’t enough to break the gloom pop alchemist’s mold.
In a recent NPR interview, Ryan Lott, whose roster of past collaborators is long and estimable, reflected on the fact that Bones is the first project under the Son Lux name that was a group effort, comprising Lott, drummer Ian Chang, and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia: “Collaboration’s always been at the heart of what I do, but I’ve never welcomed [anyone] other than my own ego into the inner sanctum. […] This is the first record I’ve made with a band, and in that sense we’re forming the foundation or the bones of something greater. ” Bones, as the title implies, sees Lott attempting to tease a living emotionality out of the “clean, architectural” beats that demarcate his comfort zone.
Son Lux, within only a few years of existence, had carved out a neat little niche. Lanterns for better and worse, built its foundation on pop maximalism, channeled through rattling percussion, flickering woodwinds and an ability to make earworms that would eventually be sampled by Fall Out Boy. Lux, also known as Ryan Lott, also moonlighted as an indie-beatmaker when he teamed up with Chicago weirdo rapper Serengeti and Sufjan Stevens to form one of the most baffling, but delightful, supergroups in recent memory, Sisyphus.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about the smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar? We’ve rounded up nine of the best new album releases from this week, from Ocar’s lo-fi pop to the glitchy electronica of Son Lux: don’t miss out..