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LAU - Race The Loser

LAU - Race The Loser
Reveal Records REVEAL011CDX

How do they do it? Another album of distinctive music drawn from the well of Scottish song and fiddle traditions - nothing particularly unusual in that, but only Lau seem to have the knack of combining spartan, almost barren soundscapes with the most luxuriant arrangements, often on the same track! The accordion helps, of course: Martin Green's mini Wurlitzer is capable of prodigious power and polyphonic complexity, and on the more tasteful bits Lau can simply leave it out. There are a few extra instruments on this album - moothie, magic boxes - but for the most part it's down to the Green Machine, Aidan's fiddle, and Kris on guitar and garotte-style vocals. With a voice like a single strand of high-tensile steel, strong yet flexible, and a tendency to sing songs that would make the Tellytubbies top themselves (another plus point), Kris Drever delivers four vocal interludes here: ballads, anthems, doggerel, you name it. Nothing cheerful, though.

Kris is crucial in the instrumental arrangements too, his guitar by turns delicate and demanding, but the box and fiddle which have droned patiently through the songs now come into their own. With five and a half instrumental tracks, on their fourth full album, Lau have thankfully not become a vocals-led band. These new tunes range from the frantic Save The Bees to the frankly lachrymose Torsa - almost as dismal as Kris' songs! A seam of weirdness runs through Race The Loser - electronica, happy clapping, and other departures from the norm. The end of Save The Bees, the start of The Bird That Winds The Spring, the middle of Beer Engineer and the whole of Missing Pieces continue this theme which begins with the opening seconds of Saint Monday. Just another part of the mystery that is Lau.

I'd love to tell you more about this CD - I'm pretty sure there's more than one tune hidden behind some of the track names, and there may even be some surprise singers - but the strange thing about promo copies is they often tell you damn all about the album. Instead, I'll leave you with one of the many quotes in the press release, by the straight-talking Aidan O'Rourke: “the noise we have created this time feels closer to the sound which we have been aiming for.” You can't say fairer than that. Lots of extras on the website at - well worth a look!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.