Son Lux / Barbarossa / Olga Bell @ Summerhall, 22 Oct

Live Review by George Sully | 27 Oct 2015

It’s not the busiest of nights that Summerhall’s Dissection Room’s seen lately, certainly not for the first of tonight’s trio of electronically driven bands. But, a crowd’s a crowd, and cheery Olga Bell opens with a smile. Beneath that tall ceiling, and alone amid all the tech of this evening’s later acts, she’s a diminutive figure, so it’s only fitting that her sound is a feisty, fulsome presence. Though a seasoned musician (she plays keys for Dirty Projectors and produces dance music with Tom Vek as Nothankyou), she’s new-ish to the solo circuit, and new to Edinburgh, and, initially, her timidity shows. She loosens up with the set’s progression, a handful of tracks taking on an almost tribal guise, her vocals flexing to a where-is-that-coming-from kind of power, until she’s dancing behind her synthesiser like we’re not even here.

Sometime Fence Records artist James “Barbarossa” Mathé is up next, two percussionists in tow. A hefty hiatus separates his 2007 debut record Chemical Campfires and his latest output, wherein he’d switched out the acoustic guitar (he’d also been playing in José Gonzales’ band, which is a fair touchpoint for that early work) for a mean line in electronics. And boy, when this set peaks (and it peaks, many times, like with Turbine from 2013’s Bloodlines, or Nevada from this year’s Imager), it’s like house music, Mathé locking eyes with his drummer as they ride a crescendo to some ecstatic, transcendental vanishing point. Imager, from that titular album, carries a Caribou-like vocal across a triangular bass loop, and marks the neon zenith of the night.

A tough act to follow, then, for New York’s prodigal Son Lux, aka Ryan Lott and his virtuoso guitarist (Rafiq Bhatia) and drummer (Ian Chang). Hats way, way off to that drummer; Son Lux began as Lott’s brainchild, and it’s his orchestration that floors the audience tonight, but few bands have felt as singularly, mathematically tessellated as this threesome. Not a beat or note out place: Chang pulverising that kit like a demon, Bhatia slicing through his guitar lines like a hot wire through butter.

Working predominantly from newest LP Bones, Lott leads the way on keys and his chesty, bassy vox, that first “This moment changes everything” refrain ringing both choral and cinematic. Forays into Lanterns, particularly Easy and a showstopping encore of Lost it to Trying, show just how cohesive his opus is; melodies (and choruses) from earlier tracks blend into the new singles, as they self-sample and live remix, elevating this set to Olympian heights, and leaving us slackjawed in its wake.