Electronic artist

New York band Son Lux plays with the senses through experimental sound

Son Lux is an experimental band consisting of Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia and Ian Chang. They performed at the Englert Theater on Friday April 8th for the Mission Creek Festival.

Gabby Drees

Son Lux performs at the Englert Theater as part of the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City on Friday, April 8, 2022.

The lights go out and fog emerges, before a single spotlight backlights the drummer, a halo of light surrounding him. The effect matches the haunting music that possesses the crowd, as the spotlight passes from one band member to the next.

Those present at the Englert Theater on April 8 for the Mission Creek Festival will no doubt remember the performance of Son Lux, an experimental band started in New York, consisting of vocalist and keyboardist Ryan Lott, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, and drummer Ian Chang.

On Englert’s stage were the luminous figures producing their captivating music, and below them a room of people nodding to the rhythm of the eerily beautiful music – Son Lux’s experimental methods produced a truly mesmerizing performance. .

Son Lux is the brainchild of Lott, who previously composed the music for John Green’s film. Paper towns. Bhatia is a music producer and composer who considers science when curating band sound. Chang is also a producer and composer as well as the band’s drummer.

RELATED: Mission Creek Festival returns to Iowa City

The creative process of Son Lux begins with experimenting in the studio, brainstorming and creating whatever pieces of music come to mind. Then they “explore” audio or start creating songs around pieces of sound that they take inspiration from.

“The analogy we like to use to [mining audio] it’s like we’re designing a house around a specific chair, rather than building the house and then filling it with furniture,” Chang said.

Sometimes they choose to write a song around what Lott comes up with. Either way, Change said, they’re all about the melody, the sound of the music, and the effect it has on the listener.

Bhatia said he recently became obsessed with the work of James Turrell, an American artist known for his work with light and movement.

“He works with light, but he considers human perception of light as his medium, as opposed to light itself being the medium of his art,” Bhatia said. “In his work he will often use radically different techniques to achieve an almost identical result.”

Bhatia’s recent exploration into the science of light informed the group’s deft lighting choices, which gave each member a spotlight and halo effect at different times during their time on the Englert stage, and further improved performance.

“We’re really concerned about the kind of listener’s perception of music, like what music is – it’s not music in a vacuum,” Bhatia said. “This is how we as humans, how our ears are tuned affects how we perceive different audio frequencies.”

He noted examples such as how the human ear is specially tuned to the sound of crying babies and thunderstorms, and said listening to music is similar.

“There’s also a kind of empathy that happens when we experience music, where we imagine, you know, ‘what human action or whatever, what action was necessary to produce a certain sound?'” , Bhatia said. “It’s something everyone’s brain does, and you can play with that perception in a way where you pick up sounds that can, at first glance, be really foreign.”

Bhatia cited electronic music as a way to achieve this, but noted that it was worth pairing something “foreign” like electronic sound with something familiar to better play with the senses of the music. ‘listener.

“Toying with the perception of the person like, okay, now it feels real and now it’s not something that worries and excites us all,” Bhatia said.