Saturday, 30 January 2016

Two acts at the peak of their powers - Celtic Connections 5

Unthanks and Lau - ***** - GRCH
If anyone thinks that folk music is some immutable, traditional monolith, they need to see one of these two bands. Come to think of it, they need to see these two bands anyway.
Rachel (l) and Becky Unthank. photo Sarah Mason
Both the Unthanks and Lau take folk as a basis, and then add layers of invention.
The Unthanks pare songs back to basics - many of them, like Thursday night’s Testament of Patience Kershaw, or Died for Love, traditional songs – but they then add value, with a string quartet, trumpet or their own clog dancing rhythms! Incidentally, isn’t it interesting how many folk tunes work so well with brass accompaniment?
They are also wont to take material from other genres – on Thursday the honour of their pure delivery went to the King Crimson track – Starless. A peerless performance was topped off by the title track of the current album – Mount the Air.
Lau, on the other hand, while they also base their music on folk roots, use them as a jumping off
Lau (l-r Aidan O'Rourke, Kris Drever and Martin Green)
point for their compositions that build multiple layers of sound with electronic and traditional instruments, upon that base. They also used a string quartet, and in a nice touch the backing vocals to the first two tracks were provided by Rachel and Becky Unthank!
While Torsa harked back to earlier albums, most tracks came from their soon-to-be-released album The Bell that Never Rang. First Homecoming, and Ghosts showed what consummate musicians Lau are, while the title track formed the final hurrah to a hugely impressive concert. And the lighting was a joy in itself!

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