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The Herald: Celtic Connections review - Lau with Northern Sinfonia, City Hall, Glasgow

Posted on 6 February 2012

With a Jack Bruce collaboration already in the bag at this year’s Celtic Connections, folk trio Lau upped their own experimental game with the Scottish premiere of Strange Attractors, a five-movement, 45-minute work composed and conducted by Brian Irvine and performed by the band with the massed backing of Northern Sinfonia.

Before that, however, Lau played their own set, mixing new material from their forthcoming third studio album with songs from recent EPs (Midnight Feast; a hair-raising performance of Ghosts) and older favourites (the reel set Stephens). I don’t know if they were fired up by the thought of what was to come, but coals had been lit beneath all three of them, and they were flying.

After the interval, it took a while for Strange Attractors to make its mark. This wasn’t an orchestration of Lau tunes, but a new work built from fragments. At first it was difficult to hear anything of Lau’s DNA in the music, as Ives-like slow discordant notes or Reich-like angry arpeggios overshadowed the band

And then everything clicked in to place for the final two movements, as the orchestra provided mirrored distortions of phrases driven to the fore by Martin Green’s accordion, Aidan O’Rourke’s fiddle and Kris Drever’s guitar.

Perhaps the piece worked better if approached from a modern classical direction than from the folk end of the spectrum, but the climax was Lau through and through. A bold experiment then, although I can’t help but think that Lau’s own attempts to push their music to the outer limits on a daily basis reaps richer emotional and musical rewards.

Published on 5 February 2012
Reviewed by Alan Morrison