For his second album as Son Lux, New York's Ryan Lott did a very un-Son Lux thing. He recorded We Are Rising in a month -- the shortest month of the year, actually -- while NPR tracked his every move. This, as opposed to the making of his lauded 2008 debut, At War With Walls And Mazes, which he slowly built in complete privacy over nearly three years. Of course, he didn't plan it this way. He simply awoke one late January morning to find a message from All Songs Considered titled, "You busy?" The annual RPM Challenge, an international open call to create an album in 28 days, had been issued and Lott had been tapped. How could he say no?
Lott was, in fact, quite busy. Both with his day job at SoHo post house Butter Music + Sound, where We Are Rising was recorded, and with the painstaking assembly of what would've been the sophomore Son Lux album. But none of those ideas were allowed into this, so Lott shelved them and instead ran headlong into what would become an exquisitely arranged album of classical notions, modern electronics, unusual pop and transcendent emotion. He made the deadline, and got by with a little help from his friends: folks like the yMusic sextet (Antony, Sufjan, the National), DM Stith, Jace Everett and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond).
Listening to We Are Rising, it's hard to believe the record came together in a rush. "Flickers" offers a paced introduction -- a delicate array of woodwinds, strings, glassy digitalia and synth throb that lifts Lott's parched quaver into the clouds. Triumphant standout "Rising" follows, bursting in waves of static-smacked keys and choral bliss (Lott and Stith, joined by the Antlers' Peter Silberman). By the song's end, it becomes something like the Faint reimagined by Nico Muhly. String-driven late album highlight "Let Go" starts spare and eventually builds into a gorgeous surging symphony of sounds both imagined and real.
Perhaps what the album owes most to its odd upbringing is an inherent unpredictability. Lott picks up the guitar for "Leave The Riches," a thickly haunted piece that pits Everett's country baritone against Worden's operatic coo. And "Claws" is noisy, fuzz-caked and lumbering, while its predecessor "Chase" is all about the details: violin and trumpet tracing intricate circles around percussion provided by members of Midlake and Mutemath. By the time We Are Rising closes with the chiming, skittering "Rebuild," Lott has staked claim over an entire universe of sound, expanding the Son Lux oeuvre in exponential terms, almost accidentally, for years to come.