Son Lux until the release of new album “Bones” had continued to show me as a listener that he was growing as an artist, a musician, a person and a soundscaper. “Bones” however has not had the immediate impact on me that all three of his previous albums have. Is it a good album? Hell yes – it certainly is; but it feels strangely familiar in places and I’ll explain why as we go through it.
“Opening with a short shimmer of “Breathe In”, “Change Is Everything” bursts open the album with great effect with a stomping stuttering beat, powerful screaming lyrics and a really harsh tone to everything that’s been thrown at your ears. It’s a simple riff that hits home hard. Bones as an album has a very abrasive tone. “Flight” is my favourite track on the album however as Ryan croaks “Oh what noise we will make as we drown our mistakes we can’t erase”. The lyrics bite, as to the massive riff explosions over simple chord structures. There’s a lot of glitchy keyboards and percussive loops that hiss and slap you as a listener – almost like it’s too big to squeeze into the speakers. However Ryan’s vocals are even more croaky and raspy than usual and that’s because he sung them all with bronchitis and then kept them when he tried to re-record the vocals later. Sometimes the scratchiness works, others it doesn’t and he audibly sounds like he is struggling throughout. “You Don’t Know Me” is probably the biggest example of this where his warblings wander off key because he is too weak and weary to hold the notes. I can’t quite work out if I like it and it sounds like a defeated man or if it sounds like he is getting ready for a quiet war. The track is fantastically percussive and not just with drums. Vocal loops are smashed into pieces so that they merge with the instruments to create their own percussive loops. No one can ever tell Son Lux that he is not experimental and that’s one of the many reasons I love his work.
“This Time” continues the angry percussive war mantras as other artists chime in for vocals to flesh out the sound. It’s a rousing track and the rising chord structures really gets the blood bumping. It also includes a lot of guitar work, something that pops up a few times across the album as Son Lux becomes more of a band effort as Ryan works with his touring buddies Rafiq Bahta and Ian Chang. It’s also here where we get the first of many harks back to previous works. The reused “We are rising suns” is a lyric he has used before and this is something that continues to crop up from here on in. Sometimes it’s referencing this album, sometimes its previous work. “I Am The Others” continues this as the sparse track that lets Ryan press home many of previous tracks’ lyrics. I can’t decide if its inspired or if the palette of Ryan had run dry – especially when it also starts recalling riffs of previous tracks too in the chorus.
“Your Day Will Come” is a rare quiet space as echoing noise and filtered piano battle to be heard over an alien overlaid vocal. It reminds me of several previous tracks and really feels like old Son Lux song structure with new Son Lux soundscapes. “Undone” is another favourite as the tight and taut drum loops perfectly roll in time with the equally tight and taut guitar riffs. It’s like a techno tribal race at 100mph and with reverb kept to a minimum, unlike a lot of the album, it has a poise and push that is intoxicating. It shows off everyone’s musicianship and how the trio have bonded together as a single force of sound. “White Lies” meanwhile is dreamy and almost like a waltz lullaby. The soft voices and keyboards run at odds with the regimented bass lines and harsh drum beats. The final minute and a bit goes freestyle as beats change, guitar feedback becomes the main driver and plenty of weird and wonderful noise crashes into the mix like a disco from Silent Hill. “Now I Want” rotates around a clunky percussive melody. The chanting “I want to be” is rousing however returning to laying weapons down reminds me of his début album, as does some of the backing vocals from his second album. The album then finishes with “Breathe Out” whose eerie phantom opera keyboard synths feel retro cool and evil at the same.
“Bones” is a good album. It’s also very familiar to those whom are already fans and if you are looking for progression in Ryan’s music, this album doesn’t give you it. It feels like a self referential album of themes where all his previous works are woven together to create it’s own mini story. The story is that this album is a result of jamming with his tour band as so I count these tracks as great bonus material but I hope that the new blood see’s an expansion of Son Lux’s musical and lyrical palette in the future.