Art-tronica laments for days to come.
When Son Lux announced that they’d be releasing three volumes of work within a year I was both excited and slightly worried. Often I worry when an artist spreads their workaround that it can water down the final product. It doesn’t mean that the music can be any less great but sometimes good ideas can be spread too thinly. ‘Tomorrow’s I’ is the first volume and after coming away from the album a few listens in, I feel like this could be a real issue for the body of work as a whole.
One thing you can never fault Son Lux on is their sound. Moving from Ryan Lott’s solo efforts to becoming a trio now means that they are balancing each persons strength individually. Initially, the band felt like they merged together beautifully but this album specifically has Ian Chang’s drums stuck at a chugging plod and Lott’s lethargic malaise doesn’t quite carry the same weight when on tracks like ‘Only’, insist on trying to recreate earlier works like ‘Easy’. The same could be said for much of the album where that downbeat claustrophobic misery is the focal point of the album.
More egregious though is that the ten tracks often follow the ‘interlude’ – ‘full song’ – ‘interlude’ – ‘full song. That way with ten tracks, you can call it an album when really if you strip out all the atmospheric introductions, you have an EP. Atmospheric introductions work best when you are telling a story, a movement, something that feels epic and grand. Here ‘Bending Shadows’ just repeats a motif from ‘Only’, ‘Days Past’ borrows the jazz elements from ‘Honesty’ and ‘Dissolve’ is an underplayed ‘Involution’. It is exactly this kind of padding that I fear when artists say they’re working on a trilogy because you are pressured to spread the good stuff around unless you fully commit to a tone or have vastly different suites of music to show off.
So far, I’ve been quite harsh but when the music works – it really smashes it. Single ‘Plans We Made’ is quintessential Son Lux and up there with their best. I’d also argue the unpopular opinion that two of the instrumental pieces ‘Into Wind’ and ‘Involution’ are also two of the highlights of the album. The former is a beautifully textured sound piece of various instruments just tinkling away. Some of them are pretty, others are ominous… and then they start to twist off-key. The latter is the closest Son Lux has got to going full-on modular synth with an orchestra and it sounds huge and impressive. ‘Last Light’ has hints of amazing skitzobeats and plucked strings but they’ve all been muted. It is a track that really piqued my interest and the experimental sections are fantastic. ‘Undertow’ basks in its wallowing bass and distorted beats like a dying giant.
I do wonder if ‘Tomorrows I’ will sound better in the context of the larger scheme of the project. It must be difficult to release a magnum opus in chunks because of the perceived lack of attention spans of listeners. I blame the Spotify brigades that insist you must release something every five minutes to still be relevant. As it is, there is a lot of like with the release but it also doesn’t quite hit the highs of previous works either.
Recommended track: Plans We Made
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