Son Lux arrives for his third album with a reputation for being a unique electronica artist with a heavy experimental side that can really take you to unique places of the mind. “Lanterns” is as equally unapologetic as his previous works and in many ways showcases how far Son Lux has followed his own path.
“Alternate World” opens the album in a mid tempo shimmy of percussion, plump swirling basses and heavily warped and chopped up chants of several Son Lux’s hyping it up. It is eerie, pulsating, brooding and odd all at the same time. The organic instruments are warping around your ears and the keyboard effects bend reality further. One of the best places to showcase this is the utterly sublime “Lost It To Trying” which is one of the harsher track on the album. Loops of brass swirl dizzily over gritty drums and Son Lux’s deadpan, almost robotic vocal style. Here is where his vocals contain the most life as they battle each other over the drum loops and embellishments. The way the track flows and changes itself up keeps you constantly on your toes and it’s one of my favourite songs to have been made in 2013. Rock out to this track – it is modern music at its peak.
“Ransom” is about the taut nature of holding a note and a space in sound. A thudding kick drum and tesla buzz bass burst out over strings that gently fizz and bubble in a high pitch. Small stabs of firework synths fire notes and chords around it before the piano wallows in for the quieter sections. Son Lux’s vocals again become a montage of himself as if he’s pushing forward on a mission for something and the production just cranks up the tension over and over as the track slowly gets messier and muddier. Fantastic. “Easy” then slows us down with a lethargic organ based trip beat and a looping melody that sounds like it’s powering down and shutting off every fourth bar. It has a low fi chilled out vibe to it that makes it smooth like honey and the sound has a certain vintage air to it. On the opposite “No Crimes” is full flat-out at 180 mph. It’s an amazing piece of music that simply does not stop coming out you for five minutes. The interaction of vocals, strings, drums, guitars and synth work is superb and its the most exhilarating he has been outside of his remixes for My Brightest Diamond.
Things take a more psychedelic vibe with “Pyre” which goes out of its way to bend chords and vocal arrangements around some interesting melodies. It’s ability to switch gears and sound menacing in all of them is fantastic. It makes a really good pairing with the dark and miserable “Enough of Our Machines” which takes an empty sounding vocal and string arrangement and lets it breathe beautifully. Throughout the album, lots of instruments warp through filters and here the strings and piano turn into other instruments as they are passed through it. Very clever but very awesome.
“Plan The Escape” brings things back into a more percussive realm but backed by oppressive piano and shrink wrapped electronic beeps it feels claustrophobic. For the choruses however pianos and bells burst in for sweeping auras of space and grandeur. The album then closes with the absolutely beautiful “Lanterns Lit” which features a choir, Son Lux’s vocals left bare and a dying drum beat. It is as beautiful as Flowers from his last album but in a less euphoric manner – it’s like a rising into peace instead of pure joy. It’s as equally rewarding though. If you bought the album via Bandcamp there is a bonus track of Pyre called “Alarm Bells” Remix and what this does is synth up the original track with some extra exclamation mark style bells and bring more synth work to the track. It’s a nice alternative to the original and you could easily prefer either.
Frankly though, “Lanterns” is another absolute tour-de-force from Son Lux. There isn’t anyone whose pushing the boundaries of abstract electronic and organic soundscapes in the way he is. Each album is a gem of feeling, ambush, beauty and decay. Easily one of the best albums of 2013.