Friday, May 12, 2017

Son Lux - Remedy Review

In 2014, Son Lux became a three-man outfit. Formerly Ryan Lott's own cherished creation, the inclusion of Rafiq Bhatia on guitar and Ian Chang on drums meant a decisive sonic shift into the maximalist, something Lott was clearly drawn to after the minimalism of such encapsulating works like Lanterns, his opus. Son Lux's brand of Art Pop, featuring supremely polished instrumentation, clean cut corners, and Pop sensibilities, worked down both avenues. On 2015's Bones, the newly included members were able to work rather effortlessly behind Lott's well-wielded ideas, both sonically and conceptually, a style that continued on 2016's Stranger Forms, but one that quickly began to wear thin. This was cause for concern, as the distinctive aesthetic of Son Lux, one marked by certain levels of experimentation, wore out thanks to overused styles, patterns, and other forms of predictability. On Remedy, a four-track EP meant to satisfy fans, Son Lux performs using their typical ideals, resulting in a lopsided quartet that's half forgettable, half enticing. It doesn't rectify past decisions, switch things up much, nor sets out to explain the future, but Remedy, at times, proves why Son Lux's sound can be invigorating.

But that only applies to 'Stolen' and 'Remedy,' the EP's final two tracks. First we must analyze, and endure, 'Dangerous' and 'Part Of This,' Remedy's first two singles. I say first two because 'Stolen' also became a single, leading to 75% of this EP being released prior to May 12th. I say go for it, dividing the already bite-sized EP into smaller portions strengths interim longevity, even if it's minimal. Unfortunately, 'Dangerous,' the single that came with the announcement of Remedy, features every aspect of the Son Lux canon I wish they'd moved past. It's blatantly on-the-nose for the group's sonic and lyrical ideologies, to the point where calling it default Son Lux doesn't truly explain how rudimentary it is. A compliment on behalf of Ryan Lott, the instrumentation he's created over the years is truly original and found nowhere else in Art Pop today. Problem is, in recent years, its been found all over Son Lux's music, so much so that the scattered drums, temperamental bass, and sporadic woodwinds of 'Dangerous' elicits a groan from me, rather than a gasp. Worse yet, 'Part Of This' isn't all that different, treading down similar paths, both musically and lyrically. The latter finds Lott with his usual superfluities, gathering mystique over something that seems to have an inherent political agenda.

Truth be told, while Remedy could be a political album, not surprising given the current climate, Lott's words and that bated breath he uses to sing makes me unsure of Remedy's actual intentions. They could be unconnected, a fantasy EP of sorts that finds solutions in escapism, a prominent theme of Lanterns. But all that's mute as Remedy's main allure comes in the production, something that takes a major upswing when 'Stolen' arrives. Unusual, even for Son Lux, 'Stolen' finds a simple riff by Bhatia guide the unilateral percussion that's made even better by Lott's vocal performance beaming over the hook. And then there's 'Remedy,' which reminds me why I fell in love with Son Lux in the first place. The rolling Drum N' Bass which asserts itself immediately draws comparisons to Andy Stott's early Dub material, only for some feeble, tropical acoustics to overlap, creating an atmosphere that's entirely abnormal. Throw in a children's choir, a surefire weakness of mine and one Son Lux has used before on 'Now I Want,' and you have a closing track I can't help but admire. Even though the payoff's minimal, the sweat-inducing build-up to cap 'Remedy' proves that it's one of Son Lux's most creative tracks in years. I just wish Remedy had more of that, less of the redundancy.

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