Lau “Arc Light” (Navigator, 2009)
Current folk flavour of the month stretch their wings
Very much the next big thing in folk circles and winners of the Best Group award at both the 2008 and 2009 BBC Folk Awards, the impossibly good playing of Kris Drever (guitar), Martin Green (accordion) and Aidan O’Rourke (fiddle) has won them both plaudits and ever-expanding audiences up and down the land. But Lau aren’t content to just sit back and relax and play the fast and furious diddley diddley stuff so common in the folk world, and this, their second album, sees them attempting to reach out beyond the boundaries of traditional folk into what might even be called “prog”, though it’s the prog of extended instrumentals and strange noises rather than that of damsels and synthesisers.
Although Arc Light contains more traditionalist pieces like the quickfire “The Burrian” and “Banks Of Marble” which are the most immediate and destined to be live favourites it’s works like the seven minute “Horizontigo” and the oddly named “Stephens”, which see them stretching out and creating mini-symphonies of delicate sounds and sweeping melodies, that are the most interesting and likely to be the most enduring.
The band aren’t quite there yet – they haven’t worked out how to really integrate Kris Drever’s vocals (such a prominent feature of his great Blackwaterside album) into the overall sound effectively, some pieces rather fade away having run out of ideas and their version of “Dear Prudence” should have been left in the studio – but they’re close and this album, while not quite hitting the bulls eye, is certainly in the next ring. Although it risks falling between two stools, being neither traditional enough for the hardcore nor experimental enough for the new (or nu-) for the non-blinkered it’s the sound of a band bursting with ideas and making great music while they work them out.
Date review added: Friday, April 24, 2009
Reviewer: Jeremy Searle
Related web link: Lau website