Son Lux evolves from album to album and from Ryan Lott’s solo project to a full band. Everything changes, yet the sound and mood that Son Lux provides stays very much the same with the fifth album Brighter Wounds.
Electronic anthems for the sad times is how I describe the band and this album is the most subdued of the project to date. “Forty Scream” gives the emotional transition as a more creamy ambience of spacious synths, guitar echoes and thick, bass-heavy drums that thump in slow motion is the order of the day. It’s a subtle shift, but the album is far more laid back and sci-fi embued. Big single “Dream State” is the closest you’ll get to previous albums big electronica explosion style. The drums and bass lines really run riot here as the oboe and clever chop and change of samples really layer up an assault on the senses. I personally feel like this unique flurry of musical eargasm activity is exactly what makes Son Lux unique – no one else can do it like Lott does it – but the album rarely goes down that route again. Instead, this is a more sombre and reflective collection of songs and that kicks off with “Labor”.
“Labor” channels that minimal melancholic reflection that “Easy” has. Lazy guitar and simple piano underpinning let’s the space and chilled out blues shine. Here a richness of string arrangements adds a warmth to things that give the song a bit more of a hug than Easy, but fans of this side of Son Lux will lap this track up. “The Fool You Need” pushes the RnB influences with some trip-hop beats, harsh but minimal synth saws and some lovely acoustic guitar segments, whilst “Slowly” continues this chill-out vibe that the album as a whole consists of. The organs and Ryan’s higher register really work well together here, as do the unusual selection of ambient sounds that rumble underneath the relatively straightforward melody and tune. The six and a half minute epic “All Directions” is where the album really hits its peak. The slow plod of the notes and the taut frazzled voice of Lott are at odds and it creates something of a serenity unravelling feel. It culminates in a wonderful outburst of strings and rolling percussive unfurlings as Ryan questions we were ever beautiful at all. It’s one of their best songs to date and a shows their true craftsmanship.
“Aquatic” for the most part is a warbling piano pulse that lets you soothe after the ascension of All Directions. It’s really needed and the two tracks are perfect for each other. Whilst it’s the quietest track on the album, it’s also the most beautiful. “Surrounded” kicks us back to something more nervous and reactive as breakbeat after breakbeat lets us shake it all out as Lott’s lyrics continue to let us in on his private life. Lyrics are something that’s really come on over the five albums and they are at their most poignant here. “Young” is a short minute brass and vocal arrangement that serves as a great palette cleanser for the synth-rock finale “Ressurection” which is a track that winds itself up further and further until it bursts into a radiant synth rock dawn – as if its rebirthing itself.
“Brighter Wounds” is a curious album as there’s not one single track on it (par perhaps Dream State) and yet it’s an album you feel compelled to return to. It’s also an album that’s really well tracked out as a work of music and in the age of digital singles, I truly appreciate that. If you’re a fan of Son Lux, you’ll love this – if not – this is the band at its most personal, introspective and reflective to date.
Recommended Track: Dream State