Son Lux - Lanterns (****)
Some albums wantonly thrust their virtues upon the listener; others guard them like a secret to be teased out over time. Lanterns, Ryan Lott’s third album as Son Lux, achieves both: on first encounter, the melodic intelligence and invention lassos attention, while a dozen listens later there’s still much to discover.
Ascribing genre is next-to-meaningless, though comparisons could be drawn with Lott’s S / S / S bandmate Sufjan Stevens: both are classically trained, and serve their abundant ambition with orchestral flourishes and imaginative, layered production. But Son Lux emphatically takes a path of his own making, mixing up haunted hip hop beats and choral moans on Pyre; offering dystopian-edged mechanical minimalism with a lullaby lilt on Enough of our Machines; and rupturing a hushed digital waltz with heartbeat horns on Easy. In sum, Lanterns is the sound of a maverick talent edging ever-closer to his full, stimulating potential.
Out 4th November
Though billed as her first ‘real solo record’ (following a trio of softly sumptuous slowcore releases under the Sleepingdog moniker), Chantal Acda’s Let Your Hands Be My Guide comes courtesy of a raft of esteemed collaborators, including composers Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick and Múm cellist Gyda Valtysdottir – all figures well-practiced in the subtle-yet-soaring arts in which Acda is specialist.
Her unhurried compositions aren’t afraid to fade to near-silence, exhibiting such gentle poise that listeners would be forgiven for nodding off mid-song – not a charge of tedium, but an acknowledgement of the lullaby effects of Acda’s refined songwriting, with minimalist arrangements allowing her attractively light voice the muted spotlight. Pushed for highlights one might identify the twinkling ether of My Night or the duet at the core of Arms up High, but it’s as a delicate whole that Let Your Hands… conveys its true gossamer beauty.
Out 11th November
OvO - Abisso (***)
Halloween may be done with for another year, but there are plenty of long nights ahead; plenty of inky witching hours crying out for a suitably unsettling soundtrack, preferably one with a daft edge so as to keep the demons from taking over. Italian doom-sludge-drone-etc duo OvO are specialists in such matters, and latest LP Abisso proves as dark as its namesake but with moments of silliness that depressurise the oppressive atmosphere.
Whether the latter trait is wholly deliberate is another matter, though Grand Guignol titles like I Cannibali and a final track of squeals and screeches (plus drummer Bruno Dorella’s tendency to perform wearing a luchador mask) all suggest awareness of the absurdity underlying their ghoulish façade. As on past releases, Stefania Pedretti’s idiosyncratic vocals are key: whimpering, growling, gibbering and screaming, her range stops their simple setup from growing repetitious, though also earns the album its ‘approach with caution’ epithet.
Out 4th November