Review: Son Lux ‘Bones’

Ryan Lott, otherwise known by his musical moniker, Son Lux, has been a burgeoning jack of all trades. Throwing in a hat into film score, advertising music and a slew of great collaborations; including work with Lorde, Beyonce producer Boots and Sufjan Stevens. Here with his original music in his third studio album, “Bones”, it seems that he has honed his sound.

Formerly a solo project for Lott’s Avant-Pop output, Son Lux has transformed into a sonic triumvirate, composed of Lott, Guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, who joined the recording side of Son Lux after touring Lott’s experimental 2013 record “Lanterns”. Here with the third record it seems that the juxtaposed organic and inorganic ambition seen on his previous releases has come into fruition.

Son Lux’ sound has classical sensibility, progressing like the movements of a dynamic composition unsure of what era it belongs to, while revealing Lott’s clear penchant for beat music. 808 booms commingled with angelic strings and polyphonic piano keys here sound incredible. “Bones” is where Pop music abandons structure and runs into any direction, an ever evolving stream of absolute creativity with a thumping electronic pulse. The album opens with “Breathe In”, an ethereal display of countering textures, all against Lott’s delicate vocals commanding with sweet allure: “Close your eyes, swallow the sun, you have only just begun.”

A fitting intro zeroth to the precarious journey ahead, this album feels like the reverie one can indulge in when trying to escape the uncertainty life can hurl sometimes. Following the intro is the record’s lead single “Change is Everything”, which is a clear standout of “Bones”, showcasing the hyperactive change in timbre with distorted synth stabs following Lott’s shaky vocals that feels both commanding yet ever so slightly morose, there is so much going on that it’s almost hypnotic. This a Pop song as if imagined by a post-modernist, blurring the divide between what is real or abstract. This is a motif of electronic textures and melodic shifts, a literal hodgepodge of sounds that blend masterfully.

Through the 11 tracks on “Bones”, Lott asks if we are free or fixed to being who we are. Not necessarily to one subject directly, moreover, the questions exist in an arbitrary place, maybe to imbue cogitation of the listener or to present the idea in general for himself. The theme throughout is intriguingly ambiguous, oppression is felt in some songs darkest moment, suggesting feelings of being controlled while there are blistering moments of empowerment that can leave a bitter aftertaste that suggests sadness under it all.

On the instrumental side, this a fun record that can transmute from haunting piano keys that reverberate through the abyss to a fusillade of Electronics battling to be the loudest. A standout for me was “You Don’t Know Me”, it opens with a Bass laden beat that could make Hudson Mohawke proud before changing into a choppy tune that is teeming with intensity, the countering backing vocals rattle your soul and the drum snare shakes the song with seismic power.

While the music changes so rapidly, it never borders dissonance because Lott and his two partners make music that feels like organized chaos, Bhatia’s intentionally out of sync guitar blends with the insanely well syncopated drum fills of Chang in “Undone”, this song is a vociferous beast until all is stripped back, revealing the bones of a smooth groove. What stands out the most throughout “Bones” is Lott’s voice, which shows his confidence in high moments, but the shakiness in every word spoken shows that it is on the cusp of breaking into poignancy at any moment.

The penultimate cut of the album, “Now I Want”, is an anthemic shot of energy ready for the arena, the inquiry of freedom feels answered here, the answer lies within the question being asked again but to an instrumental that feels liberating and in control. I would be shocked if this song isn’t sampled by a hip hop artist by the end of the year. The ending track, “Breathe Out”, as the name suggests, is exhaling from the wild ride that is “Bones”, a cathartic moment when the clamorous electronics leave and haunting strings carry Lott’s voice into the ether that turns to silence.
This record is a hermetic container filled with compositional wonder and existential thought reflecting a search for solace, or at least questioning if you really have found it or not. Sometimes the bombast can blur the substance in “Bones”, to some this might be an overwhelming record but if you abandon convention, this album is a real treat. Through all the questions and versatile instrumentation, this album is an exercise in studying imperfection and digging under it all to find the bones, because maybe it is the bones that are where ideas manifest.


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