Folk too often is, by its very nature, a fairly conservative musical genre. There are enough mavericks to mix it up, of course, but when a band ambles on stage with a guitar, a fiddle and an accordian, you generally know what to expect, and the only question is whether they will have the songcraft to make it fly.
Lau, however, dare to think differently. They stand out for their innovation, firmly rooted in the traditions but finding new ways to express long-standing ideas. The Scottish trio have no exotic instruments or odd gimmicks at their disposal, just three heads bursting with ideas. On this, their third album, they have linked up with famed American producer Tucker Martine to create their most accessible record yet.
The groovy funk of ‘Far From Portland’, a vast sprawling track that also takes in plenty of pastoral influences as it ambles along, is the early highlight, but they tick plenty of boxes on this record, from the happy-clappy sing-song of ‘The Bird That Winds The Spring’ to the rich, warm ‘Throwing Pennies’.
Not that you should expect to be entirely swept off your feet. The album suffers at times from being too one-paced, particularly given that said pace is not a particularly quick one. Long ambling tracks are fine when they are broken up once in a while, but the gears rarely shift. With several of the songs largely or entirely instrumental, that can lead to a sense of drift, something most noticeable on the lengthy ‘Torsa’.
But this complaint is fairly minor. There is too much craft in these songs for the mind to wander too long, and too much creativity to risk boredom.