Son Lux - At War with Walls and Mazes (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Son Lux

At War with Walls and Mazes (2008)


Son Lux is Ryan Lott, on first glance just another dude with a computer. In recent years the music world has been flooded by ‘dudes with computers,' cutting and pasting stuff together and calling it music, a process made significantly easier in recent years with the ease of current software. But Lott is no layman getting lucky with a patchwork of samples. A piano player since a young age, a punk in high school and a composition student in college (at Indiana University, B-town represent), Lott knows what he's doing. Now in New York, he is a full-time composer as a career and does Son Lux on the side, and also often collaborates with his wife, a dancer, and is commissioned to write pieces to accompany dancer companies. Pretty rad gigs, I'd say.

Perhaps as a result of this atypical background, At War with Walls and Mazes is a hard album to pin down. He says he arranged his found sounds starting with the rhythms, rather than melody as he would when composing classically. The result is a hip-hop and electronica-driven sound that somehow maintains an organic, dreamy feel. "Weapons" has a heavy, crunchy beat but everything else twinkles above it, save for a few interjections of squealing noise, while Lott's vocals stay simple in both lyrics and melody, getting only slightly twisted by effects here and there.

"Betray," like many songs here, feels like Lott is trying to one-up Radiohead at their own game; problem is, Lott is no Thom Yorke. A strong bass groove under subdued swells and flute flutters fill one of the strongest overall tracks thanks to the most memorable vocals found here. "You will betray me baby / And I will be true / I only ask may I share / Dinner with you," he sighs. Lott tends to dwell on a few repeated lines using his voice more like another instrument, and if you are listening through pop music ears it would seem lazy. This is not his biggest weakness, however; that would be his emo delivery and subject matter, as he tends to whimper his sad sentiments. He thrives when he gets further away from pop, occupying his own world of DJ-meets-classical, as in "Stand," where the stuttering drumbeat charges ahead as Lott and a sampled soprano's wail perform a duet.

For me, At War mostly makes good chill music. My focus tends to drift to and from the music, until something like the hot hi-hat-driven beat of "Wither" perks me back up or when "Epilogue" rumbles and grows louder than you think it ever would. It's definitely a carefully crafted album and has a lot of interesting stuff going on. I enjoy it as it plays but it leaves me wanting a little more to grab onto for later.