Ryan Lott (aka Son Lux) spent February 2011 beavering away at the behest of NPR in order to see if it was possible to create an album from scratch in 28 days. Such a challenge may seem a doddle for some bands but it’s a far heavier gauntlet to throw down to an electronic artist – especially one who took four years to complete their first LP. In addition the writing and recording process were regularly blogged in order to keep NPR’s listeners up to date and to lay bare the recording process for all.
Most artists are likely to be hunting their artistic muses in booze, break-ups or remote log cabins, but what happens when you have to turn up every day at a set time and have no choice but to write something? Does treating the creative process like an average 9 to 5 stifle the muse or is it forced to appear kicking and screaming from the ether?
It’s clear that the muse was on Lott’s side after all. This album has already gained a lot of love and respect and is certainly not a throwaway piece of work done for a bet. Considering this is a product of hastily working in a public pressure cooker it is great to hear many levels of depth and complexity. There’s a lot of imagination at play and the album refuses to sit still with multiple changes in gear throughout the songs. Lott successfully walks the tightrope of freedom to improvise and the need for a level of an overriding sense of order and coherence. The lack of recording time seems to have worked a kind of natural selection on his ideas and only the fittest moments of intuition have survived the cut.
There are some collaborative moments in order to make sure Lott didn’t end up going stir-crazy and end up scrawling “all work and no play makes Ryan a dull boy” on the studio walls. Most notably DM Stith works as a vocal collaborator. Stith recently supported Sufjan Stevens on tour and Stevens’ influence on Son Lux is written through the album like a stick of Blackpool rock. Whereas it took an age for Stevens’ epic The Age Of Adz to appear, a leaf could perhaps be taken out of Son Lux’s book.
It’s difficult to see how this album would have turned out if Lott had been given more time, but the concise length means that very little cracks show. There’s not much in the way of memorable melodies, but the many strata of samples and soundscapes mean there’s a lot to unlock. We’re told that Rome was not built in a day, but as the culmination of a month’s work We Are Rising exceeds expectations. There’s a lot of admire in Son Lux for rising to the challenge even if this level of appreciation may be lost on those unaware of the album’s recording process.