In a collective climate that becomes more explicitly volatile each passing day, experimental trio Son Lux doesn’t leave room for confusion regarding its new EP’s raison d’être. The official Bandcamp page for ‘Remedy’ describes the four new songs as a reaction “born the week of the 2016 election… both mournful and refusing to accept the new normal.” Sales of the EP go to the Southern Law Poverty Center, an NPO devoted to combating all forms of hate and prejudice. The name of the EP means “cure”, an antidote for tough times. Jumping into the actual contents of this politically charged project, however, it becomes clear, as well as comforting to hear, that this is protest art at its most nuanced.
SonLux began as composer and vocalist Ryan Lott’s solo venture, a melting pot of rock, hip-hop, and chamber music gracefully collaborating on records with Lorde and Sufjan Stevens while performing in venues such as Carnegie Hall with choruses and orchestras. On ‘Remedy’, Lott, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, and drummer Ian Chang don’t take a drastic creative departure from their recent offerings, instead challenging themselves to communicate a message rung from emotional extremes within a tight number of tracks.
‘Remedy’ is an expression of the stages of grief. Lott wastes no time in incorporating the audience within this framework, asking, “Are you dangerous?” It’s an opening salvo filled with fear and confusion, while ‘Part of This’ is equal measures denial and guilt. ‘Stolen’ is a release of anger that resolves itself in the acceptance and rebuilding present in the closing title track’s call to action. The impact of the lyrics is dampened at times by their opaqueness, and the temperamental sonic shifts from quiet to volcanic make for a challenging listening experience that frustrates and exhilarates even upon repeated visits.
Lott’s voice is mangled and manipulated over the course of the EP, an unstable presence put through the wringer. The trademark fragility of his delivery reaches an unchartered dimension of strained, with squeaky guitars and eerie synths playing against guttural vocal rumbles and sputtering sound effects. Trembling and breaking down like the environment that inspired it, our oral guide finds strength in unity, making use of a crowd-sourced choir of more than 300 people for the EP’s conclusion. Son Lux is never more universally appealing than at this moment, with regard to both taste and urgency. The voices fade and marching drums crescendo, unsettled and advancing.