Sunday, August 16, 2009

Music: Son Lux

Son Lux, aka Ryan Lott, is a classically trained composer who calls himself a hip-hop producer. He has created multimedia projects featured in the Guggenheim, composed scores for dance productions, and remixed Arts Section favorites Radiohead, Beirut, Wild Beasts, DM Stith, and My Brightest Diamond, among others. To make a long story short, he is a versatile musician who was named NPR’s Best New Artist of 2008.

His debut album At War With Walls & Mazes, one of my personal favorites of 2008, was refreshing in its uniqueness. The album, released on the predominantly hip-hop label Anticon, was made over four years and mixes classical compositions with electronic flourishes and simple, but often heartbreaking lyrics. Lott experiments heavily on his release but maintains a
clear direction throughout each track (as he discusses below about his sophomore album); the result is a layered work that unveils itself anew with every additional listen. Even the album’s artwork (right) speaks of creativity: it was designed by Joshue Ott on superDraw, a program that Ott created and a new art form that I hope to see more often in the future.

Son Lux rarely plays shows, but I was fortunate enough to see him last month at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. When he told the audience that he reinvents his songs for every performance, I was skeptical, but while many of the songs were barely recognizable, it was an amazing showcase of the talented new artist. Lott, accompanied by two violas, played the beautiful set that revealed yet another side to his songs. Below he speaks about his forthcoming sophomore album, other work, and some recommendations he has for our readers.

Have you seen, heard, or read anything recently that you would like to recommend to our readers (film, art, music, literature)?


Hmmm… I actually haven’t seen any amazing films recently, mainly because my wife and I are so addicted to The Wire that as soon as we were 2 episodes into it, we completely re-arranged our Netflix cue and basically stopped going to the movies. So until we finish all 5 seasons, they can wait.


One of the coolest things I’ve seen recently is the James Ensor exhibition at the MoMA. I was unfamiliar with this dude’s work. He’s compelling to me because you can look at two of his paintings and it seems like there’s no way it’s the work of a single artist. Maybe I can relate to that. But my favorite painter I think is Rothko. I can sit in front of one of his paintings for a long time.


I’m reading Obama’s book “Dreams from my Father.” Because it was written like 15 years ago, it’s fascinating on many levels. I'm learning a lot about how much I don't know about racism.


There are a few artists I’m particularly excited about right now. DM Stith is one of them. Hard to explain how amazing this dude is. His debut LP is called Heavy Ghost, and then he has a couple other EPs. One’s called BMB, which contains a remix by yours truly. Serengeti & Polyphonic are a prog-hop duo extraordinaire that just released a crazy great album called Terradactyl. I haven’t heard a more fascinating and open-minded approach to hip-hop production. And the record that I haven’t pulled from heavy rotation on over a year is Why?’s Alopecia. Impossibly good, and my favorite release of 2008. And then I’ve recently rediscovered Ligeti’s String Quartets. They’re awesome.


I added a dance category. I recently saw Winter Variations by Emanuel Gat. I won’t even bother trying to describe it, but it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced ever. Weirdly, another piece on his program did like nothing for me. But Winter Variations… geez.

Are you working on your sophomore LP? If so, how far are you and what's the process like this time around?

Work on LP#2 is well underway. The process is very different than it was for the first one. When I began the first record, I didn’t really know that I was making an album. At least, it was not my intent. At some point in my musical experimentation, I realized that’s what was happening. So I created the Son Lux identity to commit to it and explore my ideas thoroughly. This time around, it’s completely different. I have more resources, both technologically and in fellow musicians, and a lot more music under my belt. It’s hard to say how far along I am with it, because my stuff comes to life after a ton of experimentation. Sometimes it clicks in one hour, but usually I’ll work for 100 hours on something before something really beautiful reveals itself.

Are you working on anything else?

I recently completed an amazing project, writing a bunch of new Son Lux material for choreographer Stephen Petronio for an evening-length production he created on Ballet de Lorraine in France. I laid the groundwork for new album material with the project.

I’m also working on an exciting commission for choreographer Gina Gibney, one of my long-term collaborators. It's an evening-length score, and some of this material will also find its way into the next record, no doubt.

And I’m always remixing/remaking artists’ stuff. I have remixes for Anathallo, Wild Beasts and Nico Muhly waiting in the wings for release, and about four others I’ve committed to but haven’t finished yet.

I’m also wrapping a Son Lux EP that I plan to release in the fall. All this plus my day job. Yikes.

Photo by Sarah Cass

Free Son Lux Downloads:

"Throw" (Album Out-Take)

"To Pluto's Moon (Son Lux Remix)" from Shark Remixes Vol. 2 - Son Lux


5th Mourning said...

first time i heard son lux i was hooked i love the music he plays and can't wait to hear more from him..

Post a Comment