Album Review / Lau: Midnight And Closedown

I remember hearing Lau for the first time. It was almost trad but not quite; there was always an element that didn’t belong in the trad paradigm. It was full of energy and exciting and the playing was blindingly good. At the time I didn’t know the lineup; a bit later I did and went “ah so that explains it!” A trio with Kris Drever, Aidan O’Rourke and Martin Green – talk about cosmic talent.

The Lau mission has not stalled over the years. The trad/folk presence has grown dimmer but it’s still there, although now wearing masks and making only brief center stage appearances. Midnight and Closedown has a consistent soundscape of processed acoustic instruments, some sequencers (I think), various kinds of lo-fi background rattle’n’hum, with Aidan’s commanding violin cutting through in critical moments and Kris Drever’s voice over it all. It sounds very carefully thought out and planned; an album with a strategy, not unlike the calculated mutated sounds and percussive noises that dominated Suzanne Vega’s 99.9 F way, way back.

This is a fascinating album where wildly contradictory elements come together to form a coherent framework of sound within which the not-always-so-cheerful lyrics come alive – the atmosphere is thick, to say the least. Lau’s music here is so finely layered, I sometimes actually had a mental image of different kinds of textiles on top of each other, each so thin it’s possible to see the others through one. That gauze-like quality is there in the music itself, with its muted colors and transformed noises. It is quite excellent, really.

And, of course, one might raise the moot point of “but is it folk anymore?” Ah… who cares? The folk elements are there but the whole is very original and anyway it’s not rock or in any other established genre. I can imagine this music go down very well live in Finland’s folk music festivals and clubs as well as in Helsinki’s huge annual summer hipster heaven, the Flow festival. It would be right at home in both of those worlds – and deserves all the more praise for that.

Midnight And Closedown is available on Lau’s web site and those streaming things.

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