Son Lux – We Are Rising

Rating: ★★★★½

Son Lux (AKA Ryan Lott) is still relatively unknown despite a strong underground following and well-established name in the music theatre production circle. Even his stops through SXSW in 2008 and 2010 were less than minor blips on most blogger’s radars. However, after a solid debut in At Wars With Walls and Mazes via Anticon in 2009, Lott is front and center in the outsider music world. That stunning, yet polarizing debut consisted of randomized yet painstakingly set, modern classical arrangements and chopped hip-hop blended into a striking pattern of delightful vocal imagery.

After taking note of that record, NPR decided to up the ante and proposed a pseudo-dare. Could Lott, whose prior methods of creation consisted of long, drawn-out thought processes, complete his follow-up in 1 month (February no less)? Surely, you jest. Like most musicians, Lott scoffed at the thought of modifying his creative process so blatantly. Especially considering his new material was already taking a general form.  By listening to his gut, Lott tossed that work aside and stepped up to the plate and hit a home-run. The finished product in the NPR RPM challenge, We Are Rising is a subtle wave at the meticulousness of his prior release, but with a strong foothold in the spontaneous and improvised.

What emerged is a record that takes the listener on a ride traveling multiple directions and varying speeds. ‘Flickers’ begins the voyage by the literal and metaphoric lighting of the candle. It’s the first glimpse of the light and dark, contrasts used intermittently throughout to great effect. The pseudo-title track ‘Rising’ is a powerful modern classical piece with pounding rhythms and playful winds. This dichotomy of contrasts is viewed has become more or less a signature of the young songwriter. What has also remained is a wonderful way with words, as seen on ‘Leave the Riches’. Toying with the idea of attachment, ‘Claws’ is a turn back to the slower drive, employing a rich bass heavy soundtrack contrasting with Lott’s airy vocals, while ‘Let Go’ is a direct shout out to his debut in the same vein as ‘Stand’ in tone and structure.

When an artist fully emerges themselves in a project and produces at a rapid pace, the result are often striking, if not unrecognizable. Such is the case here. The creativity that flowed in this month long session shows a deep rooted discipline, passion, and mental fortitude, not seen today in many artists. I find that refreshing, especially from such a relatively new artist. Son Lux took the best of his creative process and composed what many will argue is the best album of the year.

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