By: James Wilkinson
11 February, 2018, 16:00
There are times when you can’t put your finger on why something works, it just does. ‘Forty Screams’ epitomises this ethos. It is ethereal without being discorporate. Shimmering and floating while riding on a Vangelis synth sliced out of Blade Runner. Vocalist’s Ryan Lotte’s tones have a fragility that drips in modern day troubadours of post Americana of Sufjan Stevens and the ubiquitous Justin Vernon. It nearly doesn’t work, then it seamlessly merges, enticing you into Son Lux’s fifth album Brighter Wounds.
‘Dream State’ has flesh instead of wisps of substance. It lurches amongst, what feels a dozen melodies, with a Bastille-like ‘whoah’ daring itself to capture a mainstream core. Suddenly it all drops away, leaving you wondering if it is already over, yet is gathering itself for a sweeping second act; where it strides towards modern pop perfection, it restrains instead and hands us the 21st century vancular of having to work for our rewards.
Spectre of latter day Bon Iver and Frank Ocean shine brightly on ‘Labor’. It is like running your hand through warm waves full of phosphorescents that sparkle and fade with touch. You wish to bath in those warm waters, but ‘Labor’ falls away too quickly and we are back to the angular and bipolar tempos on ‘The Fool You Need.’ Here, there is a disjointedness without a key to bring the disparate parts together, leaving you unfulfilled.
Initially you fear ‘Slowly’ will lapse in the same way, but it has a vein of soul and humanity that allows you to commit. Throughout the album is a lyrical sense of nakedness, vulnerability learnt the hard way. ‘Slowly’ epitomises this, and could be the only precursor to ‘All Directions’.
‘This Heart Is For The Wrecking’ lays the tone perfectly. ‘All Directions’ nearly becomes a well-worn ballad, and there are concise lyrical elements of that, then scratchy strings touch you with their tendrils. As you/then start to feel that familiar heartache, strings become enriched and you are lost in wonder before it all tumbles down in frenetic beats. Immersing yourself in the spellbinding song is like going through one of life’s unforgettable relationships in six minutes and thirty five seconds.
‘Aquatic’ is lost in the shadows before ‘Surrounded’ riveted intensity demands attention, yet also somehow feels lacking and distracted. The track pulls itself out of the quagmire with some vital Underworld-like beats and perhaps the song would of benefited a more aggressive flare.
Consistently on Brighter Wounds, Son Lux manage to negate the cold, binary aspect of electronics and accentuate a richness, similar Four Tet and The XX, no more so than on the final track.
Waltzing in with massed choral vocals, arms spread wide, ‘Resurrection’ feels like the ultimate showstopper yet to be written for a 22nd century Broadway show; while allowing you to reflect on the journey Brighter Wounds has lead us on – which at times is uneasy and at
times wonderful, but overall very rewarding.
Brighter Wounds is out now via City Slang.