Son Lux, also known as the experimental electronic project of Ryan Lott, has always experimented with sound and the force behind it. Lanterns, his 2013 release, seemed to be steeped in both minimalist and maximalist overtones, and, because of the brilliant way it was orchestrated, made it one of the year’s best albums. Since then, Lott has added guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang to the group with an attempt to make a more meaty, deep rooted sound with more technique and experimentation. However, when hearing the band’s fourth full length album Bones for the first time, all these sounds constantly fight for attention, and as a result, it feels a bit too ambitious for it’s own good.
One of the most redeeming qualities that Son Lux possesses is the unique timbre of Ryan Lott’s voice. It quivers and falters, all with a scratchy, yet vulnerable feeling that proves that whatever lyrics he’s singing he really feels. However, this is perhaps the only thing that ends up saving the album in certain ways. From opener “Breathe In” to closer “Breathe Out” (both instrumental tracks), its a cacophony of sound, all fighting to be recognized. Experimental electro-pop is a lofty genre to attack in the first place – so this struggle is expected – but, seeing as how successful Lanterns was, it was shocking to hear this sort of disconnect. “You Don’t Know Me” is harsh and dark, with an eerie, carnival music sort of sound, while “I Am The Others” incorporates industrial noise with deep vocals. Even more shocking is that this album was supposed to document some sort of positive, uplifting change, as mentioned in the album’s single “Change Is Everything” as well as “Your Day Will Come.” Rather than feel inspired, the listener feels under attack for the majority of the time spent listening, which is perhaps because of the lack of context or story.
However, positivism and sensitivity are present in this album after all, but it takes longer to find. “Flight” finally gives the listener some sort of meaningful emotion, and “Undone” possesses both a vulnerable and primal urge that is absolutely breathtaking, making it the best track the album has to offer. It’s a shame that an attempt at brightness so easily dissolved back into darkness, especially since Son Lux has already mastered the sullen, introspective sound on his last album. Even though the album fails at delivering the sort of feelings it intended, in the end, I can’t fault it too much for having such a humanistic desire to search for something new.
Bones will be released on June 23rd.
photo courtesy of artist/npr