Newly anointed Best Group in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for a second year.
Michael Quinn 2009-03-27
Newly anointed Best Group in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for a second year in succession, Scottish three-piece Lau has injected a freshness, vitality, vigour and excitement into the UK folk scene that made this second studio album from the trio a much anticipated proposition.
Arc of Light follows 2007's critically acclaimed debut, Lightweights & Gentlemen, and last year's Live set, owners of which will already have enjoyed a preview of two new tracks featured here. First recorded by The Weavers in 1949, a cover of Les Rice's caustically punning Banks of Marble finds vocalist and guitarist Kris Drever in unforgiving mood, Aidan O’Rourke's fiddle offering its own agitated commentary. O’Rourke is just as feisty in Frank & Flo's, accompanying Martin Green's virtuosic accordion with a fevered, colour-saturated intensity, before flowing into his own pacy, questing, obviously Scottish An Tobar.
Winter Moon sleeves Drever's nasally-pinched voice in a faux, fey world-weariness that calls Rufus Wainwright to mind, while The Master is a more sprightly, lighter-textured affair, O’Rourke's staccato underpinning a remarkably effective rhythmic device.
What astonishes most about Lau is the orchestral quality of the sound. Augmented with pedal guitar, Horizontigo, epic in conception and execution though it is, makes considerably more of guitar, fiddle and accordion than ought to be possible. The wonderful Salty Boys, mesmeric Temple of Fiddles and playful, psychedelically-tinged Stephen's all point to Lau being musicians with something of point and purpose to say and the more than eloquent means to say it.
Calum Malcolm's production is beautifully framed with a deftly despatched bonus cover of Dear Prudence an engaging encore.