Exhibiting elements of trip-hop, post-rock as well as a multitude of others, Son Lux have proved to have numerous strings to their bow since the release of their 2008 debut. Brighter Wounds further exemplifies this, with Ryan Lott’s project transformed again.
Last time around, on 2015’s Bones, it became a full band and evolved into a hot bed of electronic-pop, unusual soul and absolute experimentalism. Things have become personal for the fifth record, however, after Lott became a father to a baby boy and lost a best friend to cancer. Fears of first-time parenthood were compounded by a frightening new reality—his son arrived shortly after Donald Trump was elected. These songs draw on all of that: a mix of anxiety and hope for a future.
Long-time collaborators, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, then joined him in an intense 11-day studio session in Manhattan to help turn the raw material into Son Lux’s most intense LP yet.
It begins with ‘Forty Screams’, an uneasy letter from Lott to his unborn child with a score as theatrical as it is dooming. Lott’s ghostly whisper conveys regret—”I had wanted a better world for you“—while also begging this innocent soul to “scream love” in the face of chaos. One of the album’s poorer tracks then follows in the form of ‘Dream State’, with an over emphasis placed on the synthetics that don’t really work.
Things soon pick up for the r’n’b-esque minimal ‘Labor’ with its beautiful piano melody and brilliant vocals. ‘Slowly’ is then another deeply personal journey for Lott before ‘The Fool You Need’s mesmerising rhythmic core intersects perfectly with what is the only acoustic guitar on the record.
However, the beating heart of Brighter Wounds is undoubtedly ‘All Directions’. Soaring strings, roaring choirs and cascades of guitar lines work together seamlessly to give a stage to the lyrical themes of life after death. The solemn ‘Aquatic’ is just as potent as Lott reflects on his best friend he buried last year.
Bhatia and Chang then come to the forefront on ‘Surrounded’. The New Yorkers were initially brought on to help tour the 2013 album, Lanterns, but after an infinite number of live performances and several recordings together you can hear they’re indispensable to Lott’s overall creative process, with their dynamic rhythmic interplay and improvisational start-stop moments.
‘Young’ is then a direct continuation and serves as a post-script to the opening letter, with Lott’s singing going transcendent over a mournful trio of horns as he takes on the voice of fate. ‘Resurrection’ then closes proceedings and finds the songwriter doubting everything from the power of protest to the refuge of faith to the functionality of gravity.
Although it has its average moments, Brighter Wounds is a solid addition to the group’s catalogue and, perhaps, the most important and vital on a spiritual, meaningful level. There is an often silent undercurrent of fear running through the ten songs and they manifest into what is largely a potent, fully formed piece of work that documents a heart-breaking, yet also joyous period in the writer’s life.