Lau at the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, 30 January 2016
The hushed surrounds of the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire provided an oasis of calm and warmth against the temperamental weather outside and welcomed the Scottish/English folk pioneers Lau to its bosom. A warmly lit stage provided the perfect backdrop to an evening of avant-garde, genre-defying music performed by three musicians who seem to exist on a different plane altogether. This is not your average folk band.
The songs build and swell, crumble and burst, and when they hit their stride, it’s hard to take your eyes off them. All three members of the band make use of loops to build layer upon layer of wonderful noise.
In fact they introduce songs as “pieces of music” which is apt, because it would be doing them a disservice to refer to them merely as songs, many of them breaking the ten-minute mark, but never feeling like it. Some pieces feature vocals and fit a little easier in to the “song” bracket.
Like a mad professor in his lab, Martin Green sits among his machines, twiddling knobs with one hand while playing the accordion with the other. “I love the NHS” is the message written across the top of his nearly-falling-over keyboard. Above that is a wooden block with various pieces of cutlery and smaller wooden blocks with which he creates cacophonous percussion. This is linked to a large wooden box cabinet/amplifier at the back of the stage, which may or may not contain rare animals. It really is something to behold.
Meanwhile Aidan O’Rourke, fiddle poised, sits astride a bank of effects pedals that your average math-rock guitarist would be proud of. This is definitely not your average folk band. In the middle, Kris Drever provides a focal point whether he is laying down riffs in loop cycles or making your heart ache through his melancholic lament.
But folk band they are, apparently, at least according to the BBC who named them “Best Group” at the BBC Folk awards in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. Perhaps they will introduce a prog-folk category soon.
Torsa takes off into a reel about halfway through; First Homecoming is about moving to Shetland (“euphemistically speaking, but really, also”), they joke, but the line “I brought my music into this house / I lost the urge to be by myself” very much rings true in the theatre tonight; The Burrian from 2009’s ‘Arc Light’ sees the dexterity of the three musicians match each other note for note.
Green adds humorous anecdotes between songs about the mundane things that have happened to them in the last 22 hours (“with receipts to prove it”) e.g. driving in a fairly strong wind and being tempted to purchase sour sweets by the name of “Toxic Waste”. In someone else’s hands it could sound forced, but the quiet Scottish lilt lends itself so naturally to the role of the raconteur that, like everything else tonight, it just works.
“She said I was a magnificent drunk”, sings Drever in Death Of The Dining Car from last year’s ‘The Bell That Never Rang’, with the sincerity that only a Scot could dispatch. The beautiful Ghosts sounds like Damien Rice at his best, singing “I’m not an incomer / My parents were ghosts / Sir I was born here / So where would I go?” until there’s hardly a dry eye in the house.
At the end of the show Green congratulates the audience for coming out “as it’s more of a pain in the arse than you think. I mean, have you seen the internet?”. It’s a typically self-effacing end to an incredible show.
Afterwards all three members are in the lobby selling merchandise which includes keychains and Lau-branded hot sauce. No, this is definitely not your average folk band.