Ever adapting his creative process, composer/keyboardist/singer/producer Ryan Lott enlisted his Lanterns touring bandmembers, guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, to co-write the fourth Son Lux album, the first recorded as a band. The recording and processing techniques Lott has continued to refine from previous albums, including digitally manipulating acoustic instrument recordings, are on full display on Bones, with exotic rhythms, startling anthems, and those organic-mechanical timbres forming a bold song set with an unshakably dystopian feel. Chang's herky-jerky, rhythmically tantalizing drumming style is a perfect complement to Lott's crackling, distraught-sounding singing voice, both evident on the relentlessly irregular "Flight," also with melodic eruptions of flute voicings, experimental noise guitar, and disquieting lyrics: "Are we now what we'll be?/Are we fixed or free?" "You Don't Know Me," described by Bhatia as expressing defiance of political and organizational oppression ("I feel you tracing my scars, but you don't know me"), is sultry, alarm-riddled art-dance-rock with an inspired, out-of-the-blue rhythm section break with Andrews Sisters-style guest chanteuses. The record is continually surprising, from the blown-out, crushing booms and anthemic chorus of "Change Is Everything" to the diverse drum-sound palette within "White Lies" to the dissonant guitar work on the more psychedelic-leaning "Undone," and those aren't all of the noteworthy events within just those songs. The album is also compellingly catchy and danceable throughout, though persistently grim in subject matter and tone; "I Am the Others," for instance, repeats "Am I the only one?," "Where are the others?," and "You are the most fortunate one" for a truly apocalyptic effect among clattering rim drumming, distorted low-end chords, and howling voices. Listeners who can withstand or embrace the heaviness will find an inspiring amount to appreciate. Bones is inventive, unsettling, imposing, and utterly arresting.
by Marcy Donelson