Wednesday, October 21, 2009

AU w/ Parenthetical Girls - live on dublab 05.28.08

I first heard AU (eh yoo) in a live set on WFMU sometime last year. I was struck by the raw materials used, the unfolding of beautiful things but with an obvious stream of consciousness approach. This was desparate, humane and deeply contemplative stuff, but playful nevertheless. I dug up the latest album Verbs, which was lovely, but did not stick with me like the live outing. So I'm happy today to discover another live set of AU from the middle of last year posted to the Free Music Archive by dublab last month, but this set is with Parenthetical Girls also in the mix.

The healthy dose of improvisation makes me partial to this band, but so does the expandable/collapsible nature of the lineup. AU can be as small as a duo, or as large as a chamber troupe. This dublab set sounds like at least 5-6 people, but who knows? Luke Wyland croons and exclaims like a coyote man ate Jeff Buckley. It's a silly delivery but it's not getting on my nerves. The synth/organ washes and cymbal/tom combos really drive this stuff; it's like you're sitting in a warm pond, murky and slightly wavy. It can stay very still for several minutes, reeling you in and then explode into new wave circus fare. Accents of deep slide guitar are like the sweaty breeze rolling in.

The ensemble shifts into drug-addled Mississipianisms. A heavy, reverberated blues with diversions of double-picking take-offs into almost-white-noise. They swagger through the bars until pithy delayed room noise sweeps in and washes out the testosterone, making room for piano and cymbal crescendos fit for prophesy. Wyland says something about the "righteous ones."

This is spiritual stuff. I'm thinking now of '72-'74 Pharoah Sanders. No screaming sax, of course, but the rhythm and the major tonality, the positivity exuded even when I have no idea what they're getting at. It's great. And then those pulse-less explosions of rolling tones. "Allllllllll myyyyyyyy friiennnnds...."

Again with the circus-y motif. But now it's bells and chimes, like a chorus of birds to an oompah-oompah organ. This is when things get most lyrical, even though I can't understand anything. It's Wyland alone, then a chorus of voices, then shouts and whoops before the circus comes back around. There is no cynicism here, this entire flock is having a lot of fun.

This recording was made in May of '08. I think the time of year could have had something to do with the magic here, but maybe that's not it. It's making me feel like it's summer even now, like I should turn around to my window and see sun and green instead of grey and autumn. Mental note to revisit AU when seasonal affective disorder sets in.

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