Review: Son Lux, San Fermin at Joyful Noise 

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With his fantastic 2013 Lanterns release on Joyful Noise Recordings, Ryan Lott, better known as Son Lux, created an accessible representation of his orchestral complexion. Since studying music composition at IU's Jacobs School of Music, Lott has showcased his songwriting prowess, collaborating with "indie-rock darlings" such as Peter Silberman (The Antlers), These New Puritans, and more, in addition to composers such as Nico Muhly and Richard Perry (Arcade Fire). That's not to mention his collaborative Sisyphus project, featuring rapper Serengeti and Midwest sweetheart Sufjan Stevens, whose upcoming self-titled LP is set for a joint release by Joyful Noise and Asthmatic Kitty in March.

Thinking through all of these prolific credentials as I walked down Prospect Street toward Joyful Noise's spot in the Murphy Building, I was imagining how Lott could possibly impress me further. Suddenly, I was swept into a downpour, drenching me in surprise as I headed indoors - perhaps a sign of what was to come.

Brooklyn-based composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone's baroque pop band, San Fermin, appropriately started off the night of intensely moving sound. Playing several selections from their "intricately and precisely written and produced" self-titled release, the eight-piece ensemble was vocally led by Ludwig-Leone's Matt Berninger-esque growls and female vocalist Rae Cassidy's operatic charm.

At times reminiscent of The National in their simply built guitar and drum work (maybe a little too much... ), the group's truest colors seemed to show during their energetic upswings, when horns, strings, and electronics collided, accompanying the vocalist duo in a David Byrne/St. Vincent/Love This Giant sort of way.

When Lott, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang hopped on-stage, I truly was unsure how the trio would do the densely orchestrated sounds off Lanterns justice. Well, I was quickly surprised.

Manning the electronic station, Lott's frontman prowess was unbelievable, as he triggered sounds left and right that sucked the ears in just as his Lanterns LP had so masterfully done. On top of this, Bhatia and Chang's incredible talents must be acknowledged. Throughout the set, Bhatia exemplified a style similar to that of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, creating beautiful soundscapes until it became time for him to strike lightning down on a song in a "Paranoid Android" sort of way. And Chang's rhythmic energy and mastery of volume was just what Lott needed. After a rousing rendition of "Easy" about halfway through the set, Lott introduced his counterparts much to the crowd's pleasure.

Lott and company played several other selections from the 2013 LP, never ceasing to amaze with their masteries of tone and volume control. From Bhatia's ripping guitar rampages to the chest-thumping bass tones of Lott's synthesizers, the climactic points were orchestral in nature, grabbing ears in the way that several other Joyful Noise's artists also seem to do so well. Between these cracks of thunder; however, came Lott's delicate expressions, peering in souls with his chilling vocals. "Memory rushes in/Then washes you away/I am losing you to the sea," Lott sang, closing out the night with a performance of the final song on Lanterns. "I'll break from the weight of my mind/But your ghost I will gladly bear."


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