During “Change Is Everything”, the lead single off of Son Lux’s fourth album, Bones, Ryan Lott asserts the project’s pervading thesis: “This moment, change is everything.” Despite beatsmithing for alt rappers and teaming with Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti in Sisyphus, his previous work under the Son Lux heading trapped him in dark compositional corners. Lott likely aimed to stir things up by adding guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, but throwing some new faces into the mix isn’t enough to break the gloom pop alchemist’s mold.
On 2013’s Lanterns, Lott found himself following in the footsteps of Stevens’ Age of Adz, finally embracing the shift from analog instrumentation to digital while fluctuating between minimalism and maximalism. Unlike Stevens, though, Lott falters in steering his compositions to a memorable peak, a hindrance that repeats itself on Bones. “You Don’t Know Me” and “Your Day Will Come” rely on minimalist synth loops that drag on monotonously. On “Flight”, flutes warble alongside confined synth bursts and Bhatia’s gentle guitar, all three circling each another aimlessly.
These tracks repeat their mini-maximal melodies to the point of receding into cacophonous gray noise in the background. Fortunately, not all is purgatory on Bones. “This Time” is a strident burst of energy, rife with the electrified distortion snarls of a mechanical dystopia.
Even if incorporating Bhatia and Chang doesn’t consistently add new characteristics to the album’s muddy darkness, they do make an impact in places, particularly Bhatia’s gangly guitar trills on “Undone” and Chang’s watery percussive strikes on “Now I Want To Be Free”. But in this moment for Lott, the core of Son Lux whose all-too-familiar vocals and composition dominate the album, change isn’t much.
Essential Tracks: “This Time”