Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Son Lux - Stranger Forms Review

Since his phenomenal 2013 LP Lanterns, Ryan Lott, known to most as Son Lux, has been constantly re-tweaking his work. The shifting tectonic plates of his Electronic Art Pop style makes for impressionistic pieces where one instrument, noise, or vocal performance could be replaced with another and moved elsewhere in the song. Like puzzle pieces that fit into all the spaces, crafting a different picture with each movement. That's the basis of his 2014 EP Alternate Worlds and now, his 2016 EP Stranger Forms, which takes six original tracks from his 2015 album Bones and re-imagines them. So while this could be seen as intriguing, and it certainly will to some, the final product is a rather unappealing one that doesn't have a definite purpose or identity. Like Alternate Worlds, which famously featured Lorde on the cusp of her mainstream breakthrough, Stranger Forms adds two more female vocalists to the piece; the rather unknown Hanna Bern and the more popular Olga Bell, who just released her third LP Tempo. In many respects, Stranger Forms does exactly what Alternate Worlds did. The only reason the latter succeeds in greater respect is because its source material thrives on a higher plane.

With little distinctions being made, the same lyrics being spoken, and the overall sonic cohesion still ringing true, the importance of Bones to Stranger Forms is undeniable. While I enjoyed Son Lux's fourth LP, which eventually made my top 15 of last year, the appeal started to wear, especially in comparison to the far superior Lanterns. That being said, there's still moments here to glance at like an art piece in a museum. The opener, 'Cage Of Bones,' which tackles 'Flight,' surpasses that of the original thanks to some inventive synth work towards the end, while 'Change Everything,' the antithesis of Bones' lead single, doesn't supersede that of the original but stands by it, profiting from a greater use of sound disparity, something 'Change Is Everything' focused on but lacked. Surprisingly, the track that falters the most is top billing here, that of 'Redone' with Bell. What starts off as exciting and anxious, with throttling percussion, quickly gets old and cluttered as the song begins to add varying elements. If the mere backbone of a track sounds like a completed piece, problems will arise when ideas are added later.

Out of the tracks here, the one that feels most fleshed out, and by reason, the most organic, is 'We Are The Ones.' In terms of adding new elements whilst mixing in old ones, no other track here surpasses it, as each new iteration feels wholly natural to the whole composition. A lot of this derives from its simplicity, pulling back more than it pushes in. Like Son Lux's older works, it's more minimal, emphasizing space and clarity over confusion and bombast, a decision that helps to bring out the female choir that had always carried 'This Time,' the original. In a separate light coming from the same source however, the finale, 'Breath,' which takes from Bones' finale, doesn't do much to alter the path set forth by the original. In fact, the time lengths are exactly the same, as are the vocals and how they're laid out, resulting in a dispirited end without much in the way in originality. Stranger Forms as a whole feels that way, and while some songs do their best to sacrifice understanding for creativity, it's hard to mask the fact that making remixes on one's own work feels like an aimless venture.

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