Vinyl Special – Alternate Worlds, by Son Lux

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Released May 27, 2014

16 min, 33 sec

Alternate Worlds is a companion EP to Son Lux’s most recent studio album Lanterns, which was released in 2013. The four tracks are all remixes of tracks featured on that album, and “Easy (Switch Screens)” differs primarily in that it features Lorde instead of Son Lux himself, basically making it a cover, though it does tear away from the original in the latter quarter.

That’s all the background I’ve got. There’s not much to these remix albums, especially when they’re EPs.

As for the remixes themselves, most of them are very much unconcerned with silly things like “rhythm” and “being easy to listen to.” Most of them use the sonic palettes of their originals by stripping away sounds, crunching and compressing what’s left in order to build a new beat. This is, naturally, in contrast to Lanterns, which at least made an attempt at appealing to pop sensibilities, though this is not, and never has been, what Son Lux is all about. There’s more on that front when we cover Lanterns next year, but here are some basics: unusual instrumentation, such as combining dark, menacing horns with a wide range of electronic noise, Son Lux’s intense old man voice, and, as mentioned before, a general disinterest with making catchy songs.

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The record itself was released in three formats, much like We Don’t Need to Whisper last week. The first was a standard version pressed on white vinyl. The second, which is what I have, is pressed in a half-and-half white/murky-clear format, limited to 1500 copies, and available solely through Son Lux’s Bandcamp page. The third was instead limited to 500, was signed by Son Lux, and features a mixed white/clear format instead of the clean split featured on the “standard” edition. It was only available through Joyful Noise’s vinyl subscription program, which is much more expensive than I was prepared to pay for this record, though the subscription itself offers a ton of other great records throughout the year. If you have no desire to know what you’re listening to before you buy it, this subscription is a pretty cool thing. I, at least, want to recognize a name before I buy a record, so it’s a no go.

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Alternate Worlds has great, if simple, packaging. A particular favorite is that the artist name and album title are printed in clear material, rendering them invisible unless light is reflected off of the matte album sleeve. The same thing is done on Lanterns, though that album’s black cover makes the names more legible.

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I wasn’t particularly fond of how murky the “clear” half of the record is, but I suppose that may have been a consequence of the split colors. The split itself looks great – I like that the white bleeds into the other half a bit. An annoyance, though, is that the record is pressed at 45 RPM, and half the time I forget to switch my player, reducing Son Lux’s voice to a demonic drawl before I notice. Scares the crap out of me every time.

I discovered Son Lux through NPR Music on Tumblr – they published a First Listen on Lanterns when it was released last year, and the moment I heard the record, I bought it from his Bandcamp page, which then notified me earlier this year of the impending Alternate Worlds release. The two really look great side-by-side.

Son Lux isn’t in my regular rotation, simply because his music is so unfriendly to the casual listener. But, when I do spin either of the albums I have, I always come away from them knowing that this man is a great, great musician.

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