“I try to reinvent my songs every time I play,” Son Lux (aka, Ryan Lott) told the crowd at MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Friday, September 4. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s cool.”
Armed with a big batch of shiny, new arrangements, Lux and violinist Caleb Burhans deconstructed and then totally rebuilt songs from the debut Son Lux CD, “At War with Walls and Mazes,” the album that earned him Best New Artist kudos from National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” last year.
Shifting throughout the night from laptop to synth-sampler to good ole-fashioned upright piano, the classically trained Lux literally worked sonic magic onstage.
In the concert’s prelude, he sang, “I can’t do it. I’ve tried my best,” over and over with an air of resignation rather than desperation.
But, of course, he did it.
“My songs aren’t really songs,” he told the crowd. “They’re like chants. So I’m just exploring.”
And those explorations delved deep into theme and variation – not so much because of his minimalist lyrics, but also because he offered different interpretations of the same song.
“Now I’m going to do a song twice,” he offered by way of introducing two radically different renditions of “Betray” – a solo acoustic piano ballad followed by an electronic baroque version with Burhans’ violin fuguing around Lux’s slightly quavering voice.
He also offered two distinctly different variations on “Stay” – a dreamy, electro-soul ballad with martial drum samples, as well as a late-night barrelhouse blues treatment on piano.
Throughout the evening, Lux’s music was accompanied by visualist Joshue Ott creating vibrant (and sometimes vibrating) abstract electronic sketches utilizing his touchpad and his own superDraw software.
“It’s pretty frigging sweet, I think,” Lux said of Ott’s artwork. “He’s not manipulating any pre-existing images. He’s totally doing it here right now.”
Of course, the same could be said of Son Lux’s music. Fascinating and fearless stuff.
To read my review in the Times Union, click here.