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Son Lux + Halls – The Lexington, London 23/01/14

January 30, 2014

Originally posted on the 405

All photos by Tom Griffiths


“I’m losing my perspicacity!”

Once screamed Lisa Simpson with accidental irony. This quote reminds me of Son Lux in a tenuous way, hear me out here. There’s a lot to process and ingest in the world, an endless stream of information, culture, ideas, misinformation, messages. Especially if you live in a bottomless metropolis like I do “London’s like being consistently shouted at in your face 24 hours a day seven days a week” once said my big brother.

The highly eclectic world of studio sounds found on Son Lux’s third LP Lanterns sums this up somewhat – Ryan Lott relating the album in a similar manner to that of his native New York: “It’s a place of magical juxtaposition, just walking down the street you see things in the same line of sight that don’t belong together and yet are together and I hope that my music is like that.”

Anyway. Yes the album is a capricious affair submerged in various dichotomous elements. It does mirror the ADHD nature of our world. But. BUT… it also makes sense of it all somehow. The rich sounds woven together and presented to us in a leftfield yet easy, enjoyable pop manner – absorbing everything in its path. Classical, electronic, and everything in between. It provides an insight into our surroundings, into music; while also welcoming, and embracing the sense that our world is a colossal pain to try and comprehend. I’m loosing my perspicacity! But it’s fine.

So what to expect tonight at Son Lux’s first ever UK show? Released late in 2014, Lanterns lit up the attention of many an end of year list (well ours at least) and subsequently saw this date at The Lexington sold-out way in advance. In interviews Lott describes his album as a “sound project was designed for the recorded medium. My instrument is the studio”. So how to bring that level of deeply layered production to a live setting?

First up is Sam Howard who makes fine, yet somewhat anguished, music under the name of Halls – but flanked by others onstage to make a fourpiece live line-up. It’s always a bonus when an act you’d happily pay money to see on their own is announced as the support isn’t it? Well, that’s a freebie. 2012’s debut LP Ark received much deserved attention thanks to a sound immersed in a warm, sorrowful grace, coupled with an almost spiritual element. Tonight we’re treated to a few new tracks that sound promising, and equally as likely to make you head to the big sad, taken from upcoming album Love To Give. ‘Forelsket’ sounding particularly one to watch out for. Go see him headline The Shacklewell Arms on February 17th people.

Back to Son Lux matters. The Brooklyn-ite is joined by a couple of others onstage and begins with ‘Alternate World’ (also the opener to Lanterns), a track that on record is a slow-paced, relatively nuanced ease into the hurricane-swirl of the album. But live it is not that, oh no. Halfway thought we’re treated to a full-fledged hip-hop beat-ridden breakdown; and not long after an outrageous guitar solo is forced to the front where normally the track is left to breathe. In the space of this one track SO much happens – and this turns out to be the blueprint for the next hour. Hello metamorphosis.

‘No Crimes’ is an energetic, joyous rapture and leads into ‘Easy’, with both tracks transformed into this sprawling, rampaging beast like the opener; a collage of noise greets ‘Easy’ before segueing into a sauntering, more spacious jam… only to head back to point A with a wild outro as this bricolage swirls around The Lexington. Despite these alterations, the core of the tracks are instantly recognisable – it’s not so esoteric in structure as to render confusion; though at the same time new dimensions and a constant slue of ecstatic, enriching surprises and bombastic tones make for the optimum live experience. The best of both worlds. Hey you don’t work with the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Peter Silberman (The Antlers), These New Puritans, Serengeti and Richard Perry (Arcade Fire) and Nico Muhly without picking up a thing or two.

These delightful live tangents are bolstered by a crystal clear delivery of sound – the supremely talented drummer using an electric kit to execute those expansive hip-hop beats, alongside the multi-instrumented chap adjacent to Lott. Oh and the bespectacled, eternally youthful Lott (seriously how is he 34?) himself is living every beat, every repeated catch pean, every saccharine melody – flinging his arms in the air and bouncing around in front of his lop-sided keyboard. An infectious, humble and charming character – delivering polite and funny stage chat in between tracks regularly, getting a chorus of awwwws as to how he met his wife in London. And probably a serious of internal “dammits” from the single members of the crowd.

‘Wither’ from 2008 debut album At War With Wallz and Mazes precedes ‘Betray’ from the same record that receives an elegant vocoder ending from Lott (an audience member even giving a very loud but earnest “WHOA!” the very second the track finished, as everyone else hushed in respectful silence for the note to finish). Anyways both the old and the new sound as part of the same greater package when executed with this grandiose, astutely thought-out live aesthetic.

There’s just a helluva lot going on and consequently it’s a hugely engrossing, pants-to-the-ground hour. The combination of tracks that delineate these almost intangible emotions alongside warm idiosyncratic melodies and ginormous energy is simply… fun. Really fucking fun. I could attempt to analyse the evening endlessly, but boiled down it’s the sound of wondrous pop escapism. And that’s why we come out to nights like these right? And I haven’t even mentioned the centrepiece, ‘Lost It To Trying’ – a track already brimming with ebullience that took the set to a whole new level that I didn’t think was possible. All three then take a bow to rapturous applause – before Lott finishes the show with the piano-led minimal, hushed number of ‘Lanterns Lit’ to a respectful silence from all in the room.

I still can’t make sense of the world but for this hour and a bit more after, it doesn’t matter. Son Lux live will deconstruct it for you and take you to a new headspace full of pop jubilance and incendiary surprises. Miss the show at XOYO, London, in May at your peril.

Watch our for a Behinds The Scenes photo special of Son Lux on the 405 later this week.


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