Son Lux

Brighter Wounds

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Their debut for the City Slang label, Brighter Wounds is fifth album overall for Son Lux, formerly the solo project of ghostly voiced pianist, composer, and timbre manipulator Ryan Lott. By the time they wrote and recorded 2015's Bones, Son Lux had expanded into a collaborative trio with guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, both fellow sound manipulators. Unlike Bones, an audacious production with universal themes, Brighter Wounds was heavily influenced by personal loss and the birth of Lott's first child, in addition to the 2016 presidential election. A more intimate and -- at least relatively speaking -- quieter album, it still features the percussiveness and manipulated acoustic palette that, along with Lott's raspy vocal delivery, make Son Lux's sound so distinctive. Add to that Chang's hyper-irregular style, which is more prominent here, as well as the presence of collaborators such as chamber group yMusic and trumpeter Dave Douglas, and Brighter Wounds still feels explosive. A song that Lott has said addresses the potential reality-distorting comfort to be found in lies, "Slowly" plays like a sultry soul ballad, one peppered with warped sounds, unexpected silences, and rhythms that slide out of alignment with strict timekeeping. The softer, half-murmured "Aquatic" relies on echoing piano chords and viola. It's one of a handful of songs here that contain samples, mostly of other Lott-yMusic collaborations. Its lyrics capture the poignancy of the album as a whole, with lines like "We may all begin aquatic/But we leave only dust from our bones." The striking closer, "Resurrection," is a more anthemic entry that begins with Lott's voice, filtered as if over AM radio airwaves, before adding rumbling distortion, a full range of strings, and a children's choir to the mix while asking questions such as "Can we be this ugly and still have a beautiful life?" and "Is this what the Resurrection feels like from the other side?" On average, it's not one of Son Lux's catchier albums, but it is spellbinding, strange, and moving, and still as far away from expectations for a piano, guitar, and drums trio as any in existence.