Ryan Lott, who is Son Lux, is most often referred to as an electronic musician, but “We Are Rising
” is more orchestral than almost any Sufjan Stevens’ work (especially “The Age of Adz”). There are electronic elements here, but to lump this in the same general category with techno is not only selling it to the wrong people, it’s cheapening the quality of composition.
The songs, after all, adopt classical conventions in instrumentation and convention, except for the fact that Lott sings in a very calm, controlled tenor). These are not pieces to be slapped on a playlist next to “Murder in the City” by the Avett Brothers, and the ornate arrangements of tunes like “Let Go” and “Rising” make it very clear that a Son Lux gig would be better suited to a concert hall than a club. The songs do not fit modern pop structures or presentation.
The whole album comes off as friendly instead of complex or prickly (the creepy “Claws” is an exception). There’s a deeply human element to these pieces; the intimate, incredibly crisp recording style leaves no barrier between the intentions of Lott and the listener. The use of strings, flutes and choirs throughout enhances the humanity of the pieces. Although underlying beats click in “Leave the Riches” and “Chase,” it’s never the sort of abrasive electronics that sever the connection. Just try to determine which elements of percussion are real or “electronic” in “Chase.”
It is not surprising that DM Stith, a frequent Stevens collaborator, was enlisted to help Lott write and record “We Are Rising” (which was completed, as part of a NPR challenge to him, in 28 days). Ecstatic experimentation that never leaves the realm of the recognizable and relatable has few champions, so it makes sense that Son Lux would pull from the pool that his main RIYL often utilizes for the disc. —Stephen Carradini