Au4
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Au4

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"Au4: On: Audio (Torn Open Records, 2006)"

In the days since My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive blew music listeners away with their brand of ethereal shoegaze rock (which was fashioned on the noise-pop and dream-pop stylings of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cocteau Twins, artists have been seeking to follow in their footsteps to delve more deeply into shoegaze. For over a decade and a half, artists (usually without the same acclaim as the above-mentioned bands) have been adding elements to shoegaze and dreampop, endeavouring to find their place in the annals of rock history, and to establish their art as truly expressing their lives. Oftentimes, the sonic experiments falter, borrowing too heavily from the original pioneers of this musical movement. However, there are instances when an artist is able to capture their situated moment in time by shaping the sounds forged by the old masters into something contextualized, fresh, and their own. Such is the case with Canadian band’s Au4’s On: Audio through their blend of slowly developing songs full of dreamy atmospherics (a la Slowdive) blended with 2006 electronics and a subtle restraint in their songwriting and execution that brings a clean sophistication to their songs. The band’s patience and attention to detail, along with their penchant for experimenting subtly with different sounds and ideas, evoke the poise of a confident and focussed band.


Now, blending electronics with shoegaze/dreampop is actually nothing new, as My Bloody Valentine accomplished that very achievement (as did Cocteau Twins before them), but where Au4 stands out is in the level of sophistication found on On: Audio due to the style of the band’s playing. The band prefers to sing gently and melodically over a dense but gentle foundation of dreamy atmospherics and drones, while eschewing huge shifts of dynamics like a Sigur Ros does. That’s not to say that On: Audio is devoid of passion: take for instance “An Ocean's Measure of Sorrow”, as an instantly recognizable guitar and vocal melody is played and sung over a heavy drum beat and scorching electric guitars. But, even on this relatively dramatic song, the band’s sophistication again shines through with their delicate keyboard parts and layered background vocals. In the middle of the song, everything stops, save the keyboards, which play a gentle refrain while the listener regains their breath. After a short while, the band launches into their climactic outro, all the while retaining control of their intelligent music. Another highlight of On: Audio is the moody “The Tree That Lived and Died Right Before My Eyes”. Beginning quietly with a simple piano part that emits an echo over soft keyboards, the song morphs into a space-rock jam that reminds one of Ester Drang or Sigur Ros’s more melodic moments. “Hit and Miss”, the CD’s opening song, is likewise sleek, with its liquid bass line, falsetto background vocals, an elegant piano part, and subtle electronics. At the same time that On: Audio features extended space rock jams that soar with delicacy, songs such as “A Mile from Here Is a Hole Where I Buried Your Love” and “Paper Cuts from Paper Butterflies” demonstrate Au4’s ability to effortlessly craft songs around electronic music. Dense beats that are supported by warbling synths create the backdrop for songs that harness the busy electronics into a beautiful flow of sound. The CD ends with a combination of the band’s space rock and electronic tendencies, as Au4 unites these elements to create a masterful closing song that sums up the musical themes of On: Audio.


If it seems like this review of On: Audio is a little awkward, it’s because the elements of the music found on the CD are all elements we’ve heard before, yet Au4 combines them in a way that is fresh, sleek, and almost glossy, while retaining a quiet intensity throughout the songs. It’s an interesting balance: experimentalism with strange sounds while incorporating beautiful melodies and harmonies, electronics with guitar music, subtlety with obvious changes in dynamics. The result is an impressive collection of songs that swoon and sway the listener in a gentle fashion. Au4 has created a very very good album, a slowburner of a CD, really, that will overwhelm the listener in an almost sneaky, subtle way. Through this subtlety and attention to musical and sonic detail, Au4 has made long shoegaze/electronic/space-rock jams sound graceful and chic. Highly recommended for fans of Absinthe Blind (who Au4 most closely resembles), Malory, Ester Drang, Sigur Ros, etc.
- SomewhereCold


"On: Audio"

Canada has become the hotbed for smart music in recent years. A shortlist of people making music that matters includes Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Faunts, The Dears, A.C. Newman...and the list could just keep going. Allow me to add to this list of the elite another maple leaf band - au4. These fellas (3 brothers & a friend, I think) have created a mini-symphonic masterwork with their essentially self released debut, On: Audio (they started their own label to release this project). Drawing from atmoshpheric influences like Sigur Ros, textured electronic influneces like Air, and blissed out shoegaze influences like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, au4 blends contrasting sounds to beautiful effect. In essence, au4 is where shoegaze and electronica kiss. Think of a happier Adore-era Pumpkins meets a remixed Coastal, and you'll be somewhere close. Ben Wylie's vocals are soft and surreal, adding to the sonic scaping and textured layering that is always hard at work. The laptop undercurrent flows throughout the album, but never diminising the band's organic abilities. "Paper Cuts From Paper Butterflies" might be the band's most ambitious, burried in space-funk and enraptured by rappish chants, landing the band in fine company with Massive Attack. "Undone By Dandelions" is like a musical airwalk, with a piano suspended in the stratosphere, propelled by an alien symphony. The glitched beats on album opener "Hit And Miss" contain the pop energy of a top 40 song, yet underlay the score to a foreign film. That is to say that au4 know how to make pop music without compromising its beauty. I would go as far as to say that On: Audio is essential listening, and very highly recommended. For fans of Sigur Ros, M83, Radiohead, and Air. - The Black and White


"Au My Gawd!"

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you – I have never listened to an album three times in a row. Never. In all my years of adoring music and everything it’s about, I have never been motivated to listen to any single record three times, back to back to back. This, however, has been changed. When I was given the opportunity to preview the debut album by Canada’s Au4 (pronounced “oh-four”), I was positively blown away. On Audio is a riveting work of depth and power – enough to prompt three consecutive listens.

Brothers Ben, Aaron, and Nathan Wylie grew up in rural British Columbia, Canada. The three were trained in classical music at the Royal Conservatory and taking part in the obligatory high school band formation process through high school, the learning process facilitated by the mixing board and instruments supplied by their mother. The Wylie brothers continued to grow, eventually coming to experimenting with electronic loops and MIDI. Countless hours spent “reading instruction manuals” for synthesizers and MIDI players led to an eventual expertise in the art of electronica music; a love for the roots of rock and roll led to the marriage of electronica and live instrumentation that can be found in Au4’s music.


On Audio is a journey; its epic sounds will wrap around your head and refuse to let go. Au4’s musical mission statement is similar to that of Icelandic art-rock band Sigur Rós: their goal is to represent the geographical beauty of their homeland through music. The Wylie brothers grew up very much immersed in the diverse beauty of rural British Columbia, and those qualities have manifested themselves strongly in the group’s majestic and powerful songs. Singer and lyricist Ben Wylie told me that his goal was to convey a unified vision of geographical and emotional highs and lows, backed with a fairy tale theme that can be found in the lyrics. The diversity of Au4’s songs mirrors the changing seasons of British Columbia—variety and ingenuity are commonplace on this record.

All things considered—the impeccable production, fantastic arrangement, blissful vocal harmonies—the most ingeneous aspect of Au4’s music is the fact that the band has somehow found a way to successfully fuse hard rock with ambient electronica. Many groups have attempted to combine rock and roll with electronic influences, but none have done so with results as resounding as Au4’s. The guitars are thickly layered and heavy-hitting, but not so much that they overpower the ambient synthesizers and electronic loops that help create the atmospheric beauty the Wylie brothers wish to express.

Au4 is one of the few bands that I can say are doing something completely original. I have honestly never encountered such a successful marriage of hard rock and electronica. The idea itself simply sounds silly, but these Canadian brothers have navigated this musical territory with surprising dexterity.
- Sean Boulger - Union Weekly


"Top Albums - 2006"

On: Audio presents itself as an extremely interesting album attempting to push the limits of the audible experience. Au4 seeks to blend the melodies of rock with the ambience and progression of european electronic artists and does so with effortless flow. - Respookt.com


Discography

LP - "...And Down Goes The Sky" (2013)
LP - "On: Audio" (2006)
Remix - "Everything Always Moving (Paranoid Jack Remix)"
Remix - "Hit and Miss (James 'Trek-e' Smith Remix)"

Photos

Bio

Au4 is an audio/visual creative collective formed in 2004 by brothers Ben and Aaron Wylie in Vancouver, Canada. Inspired in part by the electronica explosion of the 1990s, and landmark albums by Underworld, Massive Attack, Björk, and Nine Inch Nails, Ben and Aaron began layering and shaping musical and visual composites, accumulating a body of work that would eventually find its way onto their debut album On: Audio, and into their technically involved live show On: Visual.

Au4 has released one album, On: Audio in 2006 on their independent label Torn Open Records. Their second album … And Down Goes the Sky is set to be released in January 2013.

On: Audio was nominated for the 2006 Outstanding Independent Album at the annual Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMA). Following its release, the album had regular airtime on CBC Radio 3, was featured on many radio stations across the US, Brazil, and Europe, and a remix of “Everything Always Moving” was played on Tiësto’s Club Life overseas.

On: Audio (2004-2006)

The “On” projects not only allude to the beginnings of Au4 as a group, but they make reference to ‘reality’ as an overall concept: consciousness, ‘coming into being’, or one’s general state of being ‘on’. On: Audio is the audio representation of the project, and On: Visual is Au4's live performance and visual projection counter-part. On: Audio was produced by Au4 and Richard Dolmat at Digital Sound Magic studios and mastered by Zen Mastering in Vancouver. It was released on March 17, 2006 on Au4's independent label, Torn Open Records. The nine tracks draw from trip-hop, post-rock and dream pop styles, the vocals of Ben Wylie, who scripted the melodically woven lyrical stories. A melancholic tone weaves throughout On: Audio, but the mood is of contemplative optimism: the acoustic-guitar laced love song “Hit and Miss” undulates like a nostalgic embrace, while the bass-driven “A Mile from Here” is a captivating up-tempo track. Even the epic “An Ocean’s Measure of Sorrow” rocks; a fresh take on the piano ballad. “Everything Always Moving” sums up the album’s hypnotic qualities and themes of hope.

On: Audio was nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards Outstanding Independent Album of 2006. In May 2007, Au4 opened the award show with a tailored version of “Everything Always Moving”.

Au4's music has been showcased on two CD compilations: “Everything Always Moving” on the Toronto Experimental Artists compilation TEA Volume 9, and “An Ocean’s Measure of Sorrow” on Manoeuvers Vol. 1: A Collection of Vancouver Electronica.

Songs off On: Audio were also featured on the science fiction-fantasy television series Sanctuary (2008–2012), and in the independent horror film The Chair (2007).

… And Down Goes the Sky (2010-2013)

Au4's second album … And Down Goes the Sky, digitally pre-released December 2012, was recorded and produced by Richard Dolmat, Ben Wylie and Aaron Wylie over a two-year period at Digital Sound Magic. Picking up from On: Audio back in 2006, … And Down Goes the Sky conceptualizes a journey from childhood teachings and systems of beliefs toward a world of free-thought and renewed curiosity – where the wonders, evils and beauties of our experiences are re-imagined.