More pervasive than a virus, anxiety and urgency has spread across our physical and virtual landscapes. The growing inequities of centuries old and current day complexes of oppression has reached a critical and necessary breaking point, forcing us out of our severe isolation back together in a call for justice. All the while, the continued trajectory towards climate catastrophe still creeps across the horizon into our view, another result of the valuing of profit over people.
These defining traits of the present moment find parallels on the newest body of work by Son Lux: Tomorrows, a long-format album to be released in three volumes over the course of a year. On Tomorrows, Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang train their sights on volatile principles: imbalance, disruption, collision, redefinition. But for all of its instability, Tomorrows’ exploration of breaking points and sustained frictional places is ultimately in service of something rewarding and necessary: the act of questioning, challenging, tearing down and actively rebuilding one’s own identity.
“We’re peeling things apart and putting them back together throughout this record,” explains Lott. “Emotionally, relationally, and musically.”
Though Son Lux embraces musical exploration as a foundational practice, the band has never before experimented with format. Tomorrows does away with the restrictions of the traditional album, marking a notable departure in feeling from past releases. Whereas prior Son Lux albums have been packed to the brim with ideas, the three-volume format of Tomorrows affords the music space to breathe and develop. Each release sees songs spun together with liminal instrumental spaces, resulting in a more natural flow while letting sound lead in conveying the complexity and tension of the story.
From the start, Son Lux has operated as something akin to a musical test kitchen, questioning deeply held assumptions and rebuilding music from a molecular level. The band eschews genre conventions in favor of cultivating their own personal musical language rooted in balancing opposites. But on Tomorrows, they sometimes allow the scales to tip, resulting in a galvanizing internal violence that pushes songs to their limits. A prepared guitar melody folds over itself repeatedly, forming a chirping thicket. Drum pulses fan outwards and multiply across registers, aggregating into a throbbing mass. Diving cellos peel apart like weights on a pendulum before snapping together anew.
As much as confronting sustained instability is part of the album’s message, it is also central to the band’s creative approach. “The sound of Son Lux is discovered through a very intentional and deliberate process of experimentation where the end result is often entirely unknown,” says Lott. “We’re constantly exploring and trying out different options. We can’t anticipate what the music will become.”
While the music on Tomorrows has been in development for the last three years, the lyrical content was written over the last three months, reflecting the tumultuous energy and paradigm shifts of our relationships to each other, our histories, and our expectations for tomorrow. Son Lux’s songs are constructed through an “inverted” writing process in which the lyrics score the instrumental, as opposed to the other way around. Meaning is often meant to be understood within the context of — or even recontextualized by — the sound. On lead single “Plans We Made,” a clock-like pulse emerges in the decay as Lott sings, “what is permanent remains.” Bhatia and Chang’s elastically lurching rhythms on “Only” are belied by Lott’s lyrics: “When you took me for the days, you took from the years.” “You’re reaping what you’ve sown,” Lott sings on “Honesty,” as an uneasy surge of bending strings rises up and threatens to consume the mix, “but what you hoped would never grow.” The introspective tone that begins “Undertow” — “count for me the cost, the number of tomorrows lost” — eventually turns outward in a plea for help as the music crests into its apex. “Come find me,” Lott sings from within crashing waves of sound, “if it’s not too late.”
Since starting Son Lux as a solo project, founder Ryan Lott has garnered a reputation as “the kind of songwriter who can turn the most intimate moments sweeping and majestic” (Pitchfork). But after crafting his first three albums alone, Lott stumbled upon a kinship with two musicians a decade his junior that was too strong to ignore: Ian Chang, whose rhythmic constructions “don’t feel so much like beats as sculptures” (NPR), and Rafiq Bhatia, who treats musical ingredients “as architectural elements — sound becomes contour; music becomes something to step into rather than merely follow” (New York Times). After collaboratively creating, releasing, and touring 2015’s Bones and 2018’s Brighter Wounds, Son Lux has solidified into a band, with each member bringing their unique sonic approach to create an otherworldly whole.
Son Lux’s sound is distinctly individual, a result of their reverence for artists who have carved an iconoclastic path forward. The band’s fluid approach to genre and structure draws on the groundwork of soul, hip-hop, and experimental improvisation, owing a debt to forebears as wide-ranging as Björk, Alice Coltrane, D’Angelo, Bob Dylan, and J Dilla. While their balancing of raw emotional intimacy and meticulous electronic constructions has earned comparisons to contemporaries like James Blake and Flying Lotus, Son Lux feels that it is the act of distilling their varied influences that has most strongly shaped their identity. On Tomorrows, they conjure vivid, unexpected worlds of sound, evoking textures as different as those of Timbaland and Terry Riley within the same composition.
Arriving at a time of considerable uncertainty in the world, Tomorrows is ambitious in scope and intent. Born of an active, intentional approach to shaping sound, the music reminds us of the necessity of questioning assumptions, and of sitting with the tension.
ACCLAIMED EXPERIMENTAL TRIO
SON LUX UNVEIL “PLANS WE MADE”
POWERFUL NEW SINGLE HERALDS FIRST CHAPTER
OF AMBITIOUS THREE ALBUM PROJECT, TOMORROWS
“PLANS WE MADE” AVAILABLE NOW AT ALL DSPS AND STREAMING SERVICES
TOMORROWS I ARRIVES VIA CITY SLANG ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 14
Photo credit: Djeneba Aduayom
“Their albums treat crisp, minuscule detail with cinematic grandeur.” – Pitchfork
“With a masterful flair for entwining the acoustic and the electronic, [Son Lux] crafts distinctive fluttering melodies, unique textures and dynamic arrangements that sound like no one else. Whether portraying majesty and wonder or heart-wrenching pain, Son Lux’s songs always transport us inside
his richly rendered imagination.” – NPR
“Son Lux deconstruct genres with ease and then fuse them back together
in Frankenstein-esque brilliance.” – Paste
“Music like this opens windows and doors, letting in the fresh airs of possibility of what can come
from whipping the backside of imagination and watching it run free.” – Under The Radar
Iconoclastic experimental trio Son Lux has announced today’s release of an extraordinary new single. “Plans We Made” is available now at all DSPs and streaming services.
WATCH THE “PLANS WE MADE” OFFICIAL VISUALIZER
HEAR “PLANS WE MADE” ON ALL DSPs
“Plans We Made” marks the first single from TOMORROWS, an ambitious, three-volume album set to unfurl over the coming year; TOMORROWS I, the cycle’s masterful first chapter, arrives everywhere via City Slang on Friday, August 14. The track – which features guest vocals from acclaimed singer-songwriter Kadhja Bonet – immediately establishes TOMORROWS’ reverberant approach, its clock-like pulsebeat, sharp stabs, and lashing string sounds expertly conveying the band’s lyrical struggles with inevitability, the arc of time, and the fragility of our best intentions.
Son Lux’s sixth full-length studio LP, TOMORROWS sees the always inventive trio – Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang – training their sights on volatile principles: imbalance, disruption, collision, redefinition. But for all of its instability, the project’s exploration of breaking points and sustained frictional places is ultimately in service of something rewarding and necessary – the act of questioning, challenging, tearing down and actively rebuilding one’s own identity.
“We’re peeling things apart and putting them back together throughout this record,” says Lott. “Emotionally, relationally, and musically.”
While the epic and intimate music of TOMORROWS has been in development for the last three years, the album’s lyrical content was written over the last three months, masterfully reflecting the tumultuous energy and paradigm shifts of our current situation. Arriving at a time of considerable uncertainty in the world, TOMORROWS is bold in both its awesome scope and grand intent. With their active, intentional approach to shaping sound, Son Lux once again remind us of the necessity of questioning assumptions, and of sitting with the tension.
“The sound of Son Lux is discovered through a very intentional and deliberate process of experimentation where the end result is often entirely unknown,” says Lott. “We’re constantly exploring and trying out different options. We can’t anticipate what the music will become.”
Hailed by Drowned in Sound for “bringing order to heaps of seemingly chaotic and dissonant sounds, and fashioning melody out of the unorthodox,” Son Lux has operated as something akin to a sonic test kitchen from its very start, ever questioning deeply held assumptions about how music is made and then re-constructing it from a molecular level. The band began as a solo project by Los Angeles-based founder Ryan Lott but expanded in 2014 with the involvement of drummer Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia. The geographically and culturally diverse trio strengthened their chemistry and honed their collective intuition on five acclaimed recordings, including 2015’s BONES and 2018’s BRIGHTER WOUNDS. With each new work, Son Lux has forwarded their uniquely mercurial vision, their brilliantly fluid approach to genre and structure drawing on a genre-agnostic groundwork of soul, hip-hop, and experimental improvisation. Balancing raw emotional intimacy and meticulous electronic constructions, Son Lux have crafted a carefully cultivated musical language all their own, rooted in curiosity, individuality, and commanding creativity.
TOMORROWS marks the first new Son Lux LP since 2018’s BRIGHTER WOUNDS, hailed by Pitchfork for its “searching introspection and dramatic gestures.” “Richly detailed and sonically varied,” declared Slant, “an album that’s grimly effective at conjuring unease.” BRIGHTER WOUNDS is “a kaleidoscopic record ruminating on loss, memory, time, and rebirth, with nods to spiraling chamber pop, skittering electro, fractured R&B, and theatrical synth-rock,” wrote The AV Club, praising the combination of “disparate styles on the same song, which often leads to transcendence.”
RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 14, 2020
2. Plans We Made
3. Bending Shadows
5. Days Past
7. Into Wind
8. Last Light
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