At last spring's Festival of Faith and Music at Calvin College, I was asked to officiate in a contest called "Bandspotting." It was like American Idol in that we were asked to evaluate a lot of musical unknowns and provide the lucky winner with his or her big break (okay, at least some kind of break). It was unlike American Idol in that we didn't get to make any snarky comments.
The winner of the contest was a young man named Ryan Lott, who goes by the nom de plume Son Lux. Lott is a classically trained pianist who is enamored with Kid Aera Radiohead. He sings in a hushed rasp, throws in some Rachmaninoff Sturm und Drang, and then slices and dices everything via tape loops, lots of sampling (everything from fairly standard hip-hop beats to operatic divas), and electronic blips and beeps.
At War With Walls & Mazes, recently released on Anticon Records, is the long-awaited Son Lux debut. Lott's musical mashupan extraordinary merger of classical, electronica, and hip-hop influencesis reason enough to care about this album. But I was also immediately struck by his use of Scripture (and lines clearly derived from Scripture) throughout these very non-standard songs. Lott starts with a biblical verse, a fragment of a verse, a spiritually charged wordand repeats it over and over, like praying with Rosary beads. And after listening to the same scrap of truth repeated, sliced and diced, taken out and examined from all sorts of musical angles, I finally got it. This is the musical equivalent of Lectio Divina, the spiritual discipline of meditating on a small segment of Scripture and soaking in that truth in all its ramifications. And it took a classically trained indie kid to make it work musically via Radiohead and Rachmaninoff.
The music is quiet, meditative, and occasionally, thunderously beautiful.
Put down all your weapons
Let me in through your open wounds,
Lott sings at the beginning of the album, and then circles back to the theme at the end. In between, surrender never sounded so multifaceted, and so bracing.
Andy Whitman, senior contributing editor for Paste magazine.
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