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Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom | INDIE

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Folk Celtic


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"A five-star folk feast from the dizzyingly talented trio"

Lau, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
A five-star folk feast from the dizzyingly talented trio
by Graeme ThomsonWednesday, 07 November 2012
Lau: O'Rourke, Green and Drever - licence to thrill

It’s all becoming a bit “water is wet“, isn’t it, saying how brilliant Lau are. But what else to do? Their name means “natural light” in Orcadian, which seems about right, except their vaulting, endlessly innovative take on contemporary chamber folk evokes every conceivable shade of darkness, too, and all the colours in between. Last night in Edinburgh they were simply extraordinary.

The trio are in the foothills of a national tour in support of their third album Race the Loser. On record Lau are never less than compelling, but live they operate at an entire other level. And it wasn't just the music: three men sitting on chairs for 100 minutes may not sound like a recipe for great drama, but somehow it turned out that way.

Every song was a moving picture, sweeping over country, town, land and sea

Token Englishman Martin Green - a kind of mini Howard Jacobson with a squeezebox and a fine line in patter - attacked his accordion, keyboards and various pieces of electronic gadgetry like a man being fed a steady dose of volts. Orcadian Kris Drever provided the still centre, anchoring the songs with his pure voice and coming up with a seemingly endless supply of beautiful, simple melodic lines on his guitar. Aidan O’Rourke and his fiddle wove fluidly as one, throwing huge flickering shadows on the old church walls. Collectively, the feeling was of some vast primal power being tapped.

The scale and depth of the music far exceeded its basic component parts. Lau take traditional forms, add a bit of clever looping and layering, and fashion it all into long, rich pieces which shuttle back and forth between towering drama and hushed calm. It was dazzlingly precise yet left plenty of room for improvised flourishes; and although the trio's playing was intuitively interlocked, it still allowed for numerous displays of individual flair.

Every song was a moving picture, sweeping over country, town, land and sea. “Torsa”, named after the tiny Scottish island close to where O’Rourke was raised, conjured the uneasy calm that descends between Atlantic storms, gulls wheeling idly overhead, before the elements slowly began to roar in. “Far From Portland” rolled out on a heavy mechanical groove, over which O’Rourke laid a searingly dramatic fiddle pattern. “Saint Monday”, full of stately sadness, evoked the bleached melancholy of abandoned places and industrial decline.

As if these dizzying displays of instrumental interplay weren't enough, Lau also played some proper, honest-to-goodness songs. “Throwing Pennies”, with its communal three-part chorus harmonies, seemed a clear candidate for the most affecting live performance of the year, until they trumped it with “Ghosts”. It's already an anthem of sorts, and Drever‘s generously understated delivery underlined the almost unbearable poignancy of the words and melody.

The mutual joy the trio took in their playing was obvious. Towards the end they threw in a couple of covers: a pitch-perfect version of Lal Waterson’s “Midnight Feast”, on which Drever rattled off some wonderful bluesy acoustic guitar licks, and for an encore Michael Marra’s “Hermless”, a touching and timely tribute to the recently deceased Scottish singer and songwriter. It was a fitting, finely judged finale to a night when nothing jarred and not a note was out of place - The Arts Desk

"Race the Loser- Album Review"

Lau have given fans two major events to look forward to in October. In addition to the much anticipated Welcome To Lau-Land, as mentioned by Folk Radio UK in June time also draws nigh for the release, at last, of their third studio album – Race The Loser.

Lightweights And Gentlemen in 2007 and Arc Light in 2009 were widely acclaimed, and very well received, to the extent that the trio won the Best Group title in BBC’s Folk Awards three years running (2008 – 2010). Early blog entries and taster tracks promise an album that builds on the varied work they’ve been involved in over the last couple of years. In addition to their own external ventures, Lau as a unit have embarked on a range of projects. There have been EP’s with electronic producer Adem and Scots singer Karine Polwart and a live show and documentary for the BBC with rock legend, Cream bassist Jack Bruce. In 2011 they took to the stage with the Northern Sinfonia to perform Strange Attractors, written in collaboration with Irish composer Brian Irvine.

Race The Loser opens with an Ace. Saint Monday is a melancholy song that employs a combination of strings, accordion and electronics to build and sustain a dream-like atmosphere. This is the first of three tracks from the album that provide the music for the forthcoming video project, Nevada, which also features the instrumentals Far From Portland and Torsa. Far From Portland is a lengthy instrumental, at almost eight minutes. Industrial rhythms provide a backing for a gentle acoustic guitar / electric piano combination sandwiched between two helpings of fiesty fiddle that lead to a second theme based on semi-acoustic guitar and accordion. Torsa is an instrumental of two distinct halves. A sombre but soothing air with some beautiful musical meanderings from each of the trio, gives way to a joyous reel that must surely have been inspired by the beautiful island of the same name.

As is to be expected, the album is predominantly instrumental, but there’s a varied approach to the compositions that prevents any sense of repetition creeping in. This diversity runs from Missing Pieces, a short selection of electronics that lies somewhere between Lorne MacDougall‘s digital experiments and Three Cane Whale, to a second instrumental inspired by location, Noltland Castle (an incongruously large and impressive 15th century stronghold on the Orkney Island of Westray), which opens lightly and builds throughout towards a march.

Beer Engineer closes the album with a little of everything; chamber strings, pub piano and a gentle sway reminiscent of that brought about by the wonderful hop & barley mix the short closing chorus appears to celebrate. Save The Bees also enjoys a mixed pace; with a very bee-like, industrious rhythm.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the instrumental maelstroms and forget there are songs on the album too – and fine songs they are. The Bird That Winds The Spring is a lively song with an exuberant beat and fascinating but, so far, impenetrable lyrics. Throwing Pennies contains a clearer message among a shuffling loom-like uniformity…

Stark and bare / low winter light / I make do for shelter / see my breath most nights

For Race The Loser Lau have secured the services of producer Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, R.E.M. and Beth Orton’s forthcoming album), whose mastery at combining instinctive recording skills with a clear understanding of how to bring out the unique qualities of the music entrusted to him have played no small part in giving this album its rightful place as a natural progression of Lau’s singular approach. Lau continue to imbue the British folk scene with colourful, thought-provoking and highly original sounds. Race The Loser presents Lau as a band very much in control of their own destiny; super-charged with confident, free-thinking music that will continue to enthral existing fans and kindle interest from an ever-widening audience. It would be great to give this album a few more plays before committing thoughts to words, there’s something new to discover every time it’s played. But it’s time to spread the word – Lau are back. - Folk Radio UK

"A third album brimming over with intoxicating, mesmerising music"

A third album brimming over with intoxicating, mesmerising music.

Jude Rogers 2012-10-08

In this album's opening moments, you're thrown. Here are ambient electronics, and a pulse like a heartbeat. Here's Martin Green's accordion sounding far from traditional, next to a processed drum sound gurgling and fading.

Then comes the heavenly sound of Aidan O'Rourke's clear, direct violin, and Kris Drever's Orkney burr – the latter coming two minutes into Race the Loser's first track, Saint Monday. Lyrics about “ageless eyes” and forlorn warehouses wisp into the air, announcing this trio's new direction boldly, and with mystery.

Despite winning Best Group at the Radio 2 Folk Awards three times, Lau have dipped their toes often into less-traditional waters for their third album. Last year alone, they played a Celtic Connections concert with Cream's Jack Bruce and made an EP with folktronica godfather Adem; in the pipeline soon is an orchestral work with Irish composer Brian Irvine.

But on Race the Loser, Lau approached US producer Tucker Martine to freshen their sound, a man who has worked with Sufjan Stevens, R.E.M., The Decemberists and his wife Laura Veirs.

Fans of The Decemberists, in particular, will find much to enjoy here: nine compelling, densely textured tracks made in a seven-day session. Every experiment works gorgeously, almost alchemically. Far From Portland, named after Martine's hometown, marries crunching tape sounds, Bert Jansch-like guitars, and an outro that recalls Mogwai's gentler moments – and it works.

The Bird That Winds The Spring takes handclap percussion into a gorgeously melancholy place, where Drever's protagonist “lays his wages” at “street altars”. Throwing Pennies could stop breath with its lyrics about hearts being weighed down by anchors. Missing Pieces is as outre as it gets, but still lovely: a 38-second, Eno-worthy interlude.

Lau's traditional fans, however, won't be disappointed. Torsa and Noltland Castle are rich with the band's roots, in all senses. So is the closing Beer Engineer, until it veers off dramatically with an organ and violin psychedelically whirling.

Race the Loser ends as it begins, which makes it even more impressive: an album for alternative music lovers as much as folk fans, brimming over with intoxicating, mesmerising music.
- BBC Online

"Lau- Race The Loser Album Launch at Kings Place"

Truly great bands make fine albums but sound even better playing live, and Lau are one of the most intriguing and adventurous live bands in Britain, with a style that mixes traditional influences with virtuoso musicianship, improvisational skills and a sense of the unexpected that's worthy of good jazz players. This was an important night for the trio: the launch of their new album, Race the Loser, and their first headlining appearance at Welcome to Lau-Land, a four-day festival featuring "musicians we like". It was perhaps to be expected that the finest song of the evening would be the least expected, and one that doesn't even appear on the new release. Midnight Feast is a cheerful, gently erotic song by the late Lal Waterson, which Lau recorded on an EP with Karine Polwart two years ago, and was used here to demonstrate the intuitive interplay between the band members, and their new fascination with electronica. It started in conventional style, with guitarist and singer Kris Drever matched against the fiddle playing of Aidan O'Rourke. Then Martin Green joined in, adding accordion and keyboard, before switching to a barrage of electronic effects and then returning to accordion for a furious workout. It was a remarkable exercise in musical dynamics, in which the three players eased between gentle passages and thrillingly loud and frantic sections in which it seemed that Green would fall off his stool in excitement. Earlier, they performed pieces from the new album, from the thoughtful and drifting Saint Monday, about industrial decline, to the sturdy The Bird That Winds the Spring to the sombre and then attacking Save the Bees. Lau in full flight were epic and exhilarating, and matched the Punch Brothers for the most exciting and original live performance I have seen this year. - The Guardian

"The Guardian- Robin Denselow"

It has been a very good week for Lau. Last night, this Scottish-English acoustic trio appeared at the BBC Folk Awards, where they beat off hefty new-folk competition that included Rachel Unthank and Bellowhead, to win the Best Group award. If that was not enough, they were also shortlisted for Best Live Act and Best Album, while their theatrical accordion player Martin Green was among those nominated for Musician of the Year. Anyone wondering what the fuss was about should have checked out their appearance the previous night in the packed upstairs bar of the pub that hosts the Twickenham Folk Club. It was a compelling performance both because of rousing virtuoso instrumental work and the sheer originality of their approach.

Lau, like Salsa Celtica, are products of the highly creative Edinburgh scene, in which musicians constantly seem to be playing with different bands and experimenting stylistically. Fiddler Aidan O'Rourke and guitarist Kris Drever had all worked with a variety of other musicians before they teamed up with Green, a Scotland-based Englishman best known for his work with Eliza Carthy. Together, they have taken a new approach to the folk scene by ignoring traditional material and writing their own jigs, and creating complex and melodic instrumentals that change as the emphasis switches between their three instruments. So a moody accordion passage developed into a robust fiddle section, was driven on by guitar, and then segued into a furious improvisation, with a now-frantic Green almost falling off his stool in excitement. Even when they added vocals, with Drever reviving traditional ballads such as Butcher Boy or Unquiet Grave, the lyrics may have been ancient, but the melodies were always new, subtle and surprising. On this showing, they should have won Best Live Act as well.

- The Guardian Newspapers

"Songlines Review"

'Lau's explosive live performances have been generating a major buzz around the UK folk circuit, and this brilliant debut confirms their standing as one of the most exciting new acts in years' - Songlines Magazine


March 2007 : ALBUM Lightweights and Gentlemen
May 2007: Single " Butcher Boy" download
Sep 2007: Single " Unquiet Grave" download
April 2008: ALBUM " Live"
Feb 2009: Arc Light
March 2009 Winter Moon (Single)- BBC Radio 2 Airplay
March 2010 Evergreen EP - Lau vs Karine Polwart
April- 2011- Ghosts EP- Lau vs Adem,
October 2012- Race the Loser

Other appearances: Mojo Presents: The White Album Recovered - "Dear Prudence" 2010




(PREVIOUSLY WINNERS IN 2008, 2009, 2010)

'Lau are a remarkable band- the most musically adventurous trio in British folk...exquisite and hypnotic musicianship at its best'



Lau are modern folk music's most innovative band. Brilliant musicians, thrilling performers and free-thinking visionaries. Featuring the beautiful vocals and skillful guitar playing of award winning Orcadian songwriter Kris Drever. Pioneering post-everything accordion and electronics from Martin
Green and the timeless masterful and melodic creativity of Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke.

Their latest album ‘Race The Loser’ produced by Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, R.E.M., Laura Veirs, The Decemberists) was shortlisted for Album Of The Year by BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, featured in MOJO magazine & fROOTS Best Albums of 2012. The album launched to a sold out audience as part of Lau’s very own ‘Lau Land’ festival in London November 2012 curated by the band and which also featured King Creosote & John Hopkins, Roddy Woomble (Idlewild) and Martin Carthy.

Lau, named after an Orcadian word meaning 'natural light'; have received glowing reviews from international music and arts critics for their live concert performances and were invited to play two tracks from ‘Race The Loser’ on the most prestigious UK music television show ‘Later... with Jools Holland’ (BBC2 TV) in November 2012.

'Lau are a remarkable band - the most musically adventurous trio in British folk exquisite and
hypnotic, musicianship at its best ' 5/5 THE GUARDIAN

‘Instrumental virtuosity blends easily with tasteful electronics’

'A classy, beguiling creation' 8/10 UNCUT

'an innovative, beautifully realised album' 4/5 OBSERVER

‘Buzzes full of natural light from which the band derives it’s name’ FT

'Race the Loser - a confident, assured record from a group stretching themselves and achieving
great things' THE MORNING STAR

“An album for alternative music lovers as much as folk fans, brimming over with intoxicating,
mesmerising music” BBC ONLINE

'The world's first Post-folk group - Lau continually break new ground' PROPERGANDA

'Leagues ahead of the crowd - worthy of a David Lynch movie - expansive sonic landscapes - it's
time to ring some changes - may frighten a few horses' fROOTS

‘This is music of such stunning creativity – one of most thrilling live bands, now one of most
thrilling studio bands as well – what phrase, what note can possibly be coming next?’