52 Church street
MA, 02138

Son Lux – Tickets – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA – March 24th, 2018

Son Lux

Son Lux

SINKANE, Hanna Benn

Sat, March 24, 2018

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:15 pm

$18 advance / $20 day of show

This event is all ages

The Sinclair is general admission standing room only. Tickets available at AXS.COM, or by phone at 855-482-2090. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM.

Son Lux
Son Lux
Brighter Wounds finds Son Lux transformed all over again. Last time around, on 2015's exultant and explosive Bones, Ryan Lott's genre-defying solo project became a bonafide band, igniting his volatile mix of electronic pop, unusual soul and outright experimentalism. This fifth album marks another fundamental shift as Lott leaves universal themes behind to write from a personal perspective. While making these songs, he became a father to a baby boy and lost a best friend to cancer. Days of "firsts" were also days of "lasts," and the normal fears of first time parenthood were compounded by a frightening new reality -- Lott's son arrived shortly after Election Day. These songs draw on all of that: warm reflections of a fading past, the pain of still-present loss, and a mix of anxiety and hope for a future promised to none. Fittingly, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang help deliver Son Lux's most dynamic, inviting album yet.

It begins with an overture: "Forty Screams," an uneasy letter from Lott to his unborn child with a score as theatrical as it is dooming. Lott's ghostly whisper conveys regret -- "I had wanted a better world for you" -- while also begging this innocent soul to "scream love" in face of chaos. But the anthemic roar of "Dream State" follows, providing instant uplift as a triumphant shout blasts through a cloud of synths, plus woodwinds and brass from the yMusic crew, who appear throughout Brighter Wounds. The song's ideal vision of youth -- "Invincible skin, it's how we all begin" -- contrasts poignantly against the weathered R&B of-the minimal "Labor." Chang's crisp pacing and Bhatia's melismatic fluidity push and pull at Lott as he begs, "Come to life," to his newborn, who required CPR upon his arrival into this world. This sort of firsthand vulnerability is new to Son Lux, and it makes it impossible to not feel what Lott is feeling. If Bones provided a skeleton, then Brighter Wounds has imbued it with blood and breath. The raw material took shape remotely at first -- Lott now lives in Los Angeles, the others in New York -- but came together as an album when the band did, in an intensive, 11-day studio residency in Manhattan. The distance allowed each member to make himself heard in the mix, and for space to emerge within these songs. Take "The Fool You Need," where Chang's rhythm is both elastic and mechanistic, Lott's voice flickers as he pledges unconditional love no matter the cost, and Bhatia closes with a lurching, circuitous flurry, the album's only moment of acoustic guitar. And there's "Slowly" with its wide, stuttering gait, lyrically taking solace in the untruths we tell each other to insulate our loved ones from the universe's brutal indifference.

The sum total of this is perhaps best heard on "All Directions," the beating epicenter of Brighter Wounds. Elation bursts at the seams but grinds against heartache, ultimately winning out in a hail of soaring strings, roaring choirs and cascades of piano and prepared guitar lines. "Weren't we beautiful once?" Lott sings before answering, "I promise we were." This moment introduces the possibility of triumph after loss, life after death. The song that follows is gut-wrenching -- the solemn "Aquatic" is Lott's dedication to the longtime companion he buried in May. But ultimately, it's about letting go: "It's time to quit the race, to carry nothing forward, for we owe it to ourselves to bury yesterday, leave it quaking in the earth." The stillness is broken with a jolt by "Surrounded," which sees shards of broken rhythm assembled into a raging procession. Refusing to repeat the steps of previous generations as he prepares to usher in a new one, Lott declares, "I am not my father's son." A veiled reference to Lanterns' "Alternate World" gives way to the album's most violent moment: an accumulation of Chang's thunderous drumming refracted through hissing amplifiers and digital noise.

"Young" follows in direct contradiction to the pandemonium. A post-script to the opening letter, Lott's singing goes transcendent over a mournful trio of horns as he takes on the voice of fate: "You're lucky to be young, with future in your form," and then, "Unlucky to be young, to start so near the end." This ambiguity delivers us to the closer, "Resurrection," where amid Trumpism and an unending bad-news barrage our host finds himself doubting everything from the power of protest to the refuge of faith to the functionality of gravity. But then he posits that instead of end times, we may be slogging through a transition: "Out of the darker day and into the brighter night!" returns amid a swarm of children's voices. It's a nice bit of hard-fought optimism that nods to the album's contradictory title, but it also brings to mind an earlier line from Brighter Wounds: "Lie to me like I need you to do, so I can hear you say something that sounds right."
Sinkane music -- every note of it -- comes straight out of a generosity of spirit. Never has that spirit been on more vivid display than on the uplifting new album Life & Livin' It. This is feel-good music for trying times, celebrating what makes life good without ignoring what makes it hard.

By the time they finished touring for their acclaimed Mean Love album in late 2015, Ahmed Gallab and the band had spread the gospel of Sinkane to the world, playing 166 shows in 20 countries. During the same period, he had also led The Atomic Bomb Band -- the highly celebrated 15-piece outfit that played the music of elusive Nigerian electro-funk maestro William Onyeabor. The band included David Byrne, Damon Albarn, members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, Jamie Lidell and legendary jazz musicians Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd, and they played all over the planet, including making their TV debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. "Those 14 months really changed my life," Ahmed says. "Not only did I learn how to put on a bigger show, but all that touring brought Sinkane closer as a band."

As Ahmed got into the depths of writing for Life & Livin' It, he had a clear goal; to conjure the ups and downs of a universal experience, and have fun while doing it. "I would listen to my favorite records, like Funkadelic's America Eats Its Young, and realize how great they made me feel. That carefree, light and fun feeling I was getting while writing this record is what I want everyone to feel when they listen to it."

Ahmed soon brought the band in to help with the material, testing the songs at a four-show residency of sold-out shows at Union Pool in Brooklyn where the audience's reception fed the creative process. They toured throughout the summer before setting up shop at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas. Once again produced by Ahmed with lyrics and help from longtime collaborator Greg Lofaro, the album draws from the best elements of Sinkane's previous records: the slinky funk and soul grooves are there, so are the sparkling melodies with roots in sub-Saharan Africa. With basic tracking played together live, the fun and immediacy of Sinkane's live show is a central feeling of the recordings. Each one of the four members of Sinkane -- bassist Ish Montgomery, drummer Jason Trammell, guitarist Jonny Lam and Ahmed -- sing and contribute additional parts on the album, with Trammell contributing lyrics to "Theme from Life & Livin' It," and Lam helping with arrangements. Jas Walton and Jordan MacLean of Daptone recording artists Antibalas contributed horns.

In making a record that feels like this, Ahmed's primary intention was to make music that is joyous, but also socially conscious when you scratch beneath the surface. The songs "U'Huh" and "Theme from Life & Livin' It" conjure up the simple pleasures of hanging with friends, but there are heavier vibes in there. Ahmed says, "I remember listening to Bob Marley as a child. Dancing with my family in our living room and then my mother telling me what issues he was addressing, and that it was important to remember those things while listening. It made the music even better because it became about something more."

"Favorite Song" came about from Ahmed's experiences DJ'ing in New York. "As a DJ you're always paying attention to the collective energy in the club. When you play a song that everyone knows, everybody is connected, lost in the music." That song, along with "U'Huh," has lyrics sung in Arabic, Ahmed's native tongue. "Kulu shi tamaam!" means "everything is great!" while "ya zol ya zain!" is a Sudanese term of endearment meaning "my beautiful friend." "It's really easy to understand the tone of those words," Ahmed adds. "They just feel good, you don't have to know what they mean. It's kind of like listening to Caetano Veloso or Jorge Ben -- you don't have to know Portuguese to feel what they're saying."

True to its name, Life & Livin' It is an album about all kinds of experiences. When Ahmed Gallab sings, he sounds unafraid yet vulnerable. But while he once sang of feeling like he was on the planet Mars, Ahmed is now firmly grounded on Earth. He's no longer searching for his home -- he has created a home for himself. There's a party there, and Life & Livin' It is playing on the stereo. You are invited.
Hanna Benn
Hanna Benn
Venue Information:
The Sinclair
52 Church St
Cambridge, MA, 02138

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