Lau - The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 28 Nov 2013
The experimental folk trio - Kris Drever, Aiden O’Rourke and Martin Green - beam with originality and life
Experimental folk trio Lau has hit upon a winning formula: a combination of unflinching, unapologetic traditional musical influences with innovative and dynamic musicianship. Having garnered commercial success around progressive album Race the Loser the trio’s last show of 2013 was deservedly hyped.
Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott opened, his endearing acoustic tones intended to get us ‘loose for Lau’. A gruff Scottish vocal, with guitar playing that was by turns vigorous and muted, delivered on his promise. Whimsical treasures including ‘Gasoline’ and an ephemeral Joanna Newsom cover came gifted with a memorable edge.
Visible beside an upturned keyboard emblazoned with ‘I Love the NHS' and an instrument made of forks, the men of Lau – Kris Drever, Aiden O’Rourke and Martin Green – begin with an immersive instrumental, layered later with Drever’s uplifting then rasping and sorrowful Orcadian vocals. Melodies swoop and surge, harking back to weathered landscapes or surrendering themselves in solemn subjects. Musically the impact is remarkable: sweet and full of crescendos, soft vocal harmonies, melodic, tear-jerking notes and folkloric lyrical undertones. The trio slip into a dream-like intensity as they played, saturating songs with power and meaning. Drever’s stirring voice on ‘Saint Monday’ proves haunting; ballad ‘Save the Bees’ showcases O’Rourke’s lilting violin; while the breathy undertones of eloquent ‘Far from Portland’, a tribute to US Producer Tucker Martine, reveal a more complex and textured songcraft. Maintaining a steadfast live pace they rest between tracks for a good dose of chatter, dedicating the hopelessly pretty ‘Torsa’ to a couple in the audience.
Their encore – submerged by applause – was a two-parter and despite being ‘genuinely unprepared’, ‘Gallowhill’ rounded things of in a contemplative and misty-eyed fashion.
Ultimately Lau’s music beams with originality and life and their live performance won’t fail to send a shiver – of the very best kind – up your spine.