On February 9, the post-rock, electronic-infused genre blenders Son Lux released their fifth album, Brighter Wounds. Throughout the effort, vocalist and composer Ryan Lott’s soft, gorgeous melodies grace dense electronic landscapes paved by Lott, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, and drummer Ian Chang. Over the course of the album, Chang packs sample-driven songs with plenty of brilliant moments from behind the kit.
On “The Fool You Need,” the drummer plays a wild and dirty kick-snare-hat feel that flirts with a straight-16th groove à la Nate Wood’s playing on Kneebody’s “No Thank You Mr. West” or Marcus Gilmore on Vijay Iyer’s “Break Stuff.” “‘The Fool You Need’ was built around a beat that’s quantized to septuplets with moments that snap to a regular 16th-note grid,” Chang explains. “That might sound complicated, but it’s entirely in 4/4 and has a strong backbeat, so the complexity of it is relatively subtle, which I love.”
A rolling floor tom pattern simmers beneath “Surrounded,” before the track concludes with a massive drum breakdown, a part that Chang says developed in the studio. “All the drumming on that song, including the breakdown,” he explains, “is actually rearranged and stitched together from one drum improvisation tracked to a click. As much as I’d love to tell you that I played that breakdown exactly as it is on the recording, I won’t lie. Ryan and Rafiq really produced the heck out of that part.”
As opposed to what could be considered a conventional writing process, Son Lux begins by searching for interesting samples first. “To build a unique sonic palette for the album,” Chang says, “we started by recording inspiring musicians. We’re usually looking for sounds to sample or redesign, so the sessions consist of improvisations or directed experiments. This process really puts a focus on the sonic characteristic of what we’re making. Ryan said it’s like designing a house around a striking piece of furniture, rather than picking furniture to match the house.”
On Brighter Wounds, and on his own solo EP, Spiritual Leader, Chang employs multiple techniques to replicate electronic sounds on an acoustic setup. “One trick that I use to get a fat ‘splat’ snare sound is to cut out the center of a drumhead and layer it on top of the drum,” he says. “This dampens the head and lowers the fundamental pitch. Sometimes you can even make the drum resonate in a way that makes the snares rattle aggressively, emulating a gated white noise. I also like to scrape the snares to create a white noise, almost like a reversed snare. It’s especially effective if you do this leading into an accented hit. I do this once on the Son Lux song ‘Labor.’ But it’s all about exploring the language and timbres of electronic music through touch and playing.”
With Son Lux, Ian Chang plays C&C drums, Istanbul Agop cymbals, Sunhouse Sensory Percussion, and a Roland SPD-SX.
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