Lau / Haiku Salut

The Assembly Rooms, Ludlow on Sun 17th Nov 2013

The evening is building to a crescendo when Lau launch into a toe tapping rendition of Lal Waterson's 'Midnight Feast' before a sold out crowd. It's an eloquent summation the evening's entertainment. That it has been a feast is evident from the body language of the audience. Leaning forward in their seats; ears are cupped, toes are tapped and the shadows are definitely swaying. Residents of the UK's original slow food town, they are well used luxurious feasting, and tonight has certainly been a smorgasbord of unpigeonholeable musical delights. 

Although we are still on the civilised side of midnight when Haiku Salut take the stage at the beginning of the evening, it feels like it's well past the witching hour. As their opening number begins, with plaintive piano runs giving way to a gently plucked guitar and a sighing squeezebox, there's a magical mood in the room. It's a Hans Christian Andersen feeling of the toys coming to life and the fair folk walking among us. All three band members seem, magically, be able to play any instrument they choose. During the piece, the guitar player swaps to trumpet, and the accordion is put down in favour of an electronic keyboard. Percussion duties are shared between band members, one on tom and keyboards, the other on bass and guitar. Two girls playing one keyboard bring the piece to an end. A pause follows, then a bunch of 'Wows', then frantic applause. 

Perhaps in the spirit of sustaining the magic, Haiku Salut do not go in for between-song banter; their music is the only narrative that you get. Tonight's set seems to be an end to end rendition of the seductive faerie gem that is their recent 'Tricolore' album, and we just sit back and let the band point the way, wandering wherever our ears take us. Tonight's journey takes in dripping,chiming keys, a tangoey squeezbox, a shared glockenspiel and a variety of gizmos that seem to me to be very high tech, but may just as likely have been developed in the same era as CEEFAX and space invaders.   It takes a particular kind of inspiration to hold an audience spellbound with no words and only occasional beats; not to mention an innate sense of who is doing what and when. It all adds up to a finely honed synergy of tech and talent that resists any attempt at pigoen-holeing. Haiku Salut leave the stage to loud applause and many calls for an encore. It's to no avail, the kittenish spirits have vanished into the ether, to re-emerge who-knows-where? Probably in Salisbury on Wednesday. 

Haiku Salut may have gone, but when Lau launch into 'The Burrian', it is clear the much of their magic remains.   Aidan's fiddle is rich, Martin's keyboard runs are nuanced and Chris's guitar is punchy: all as we expected, just a bit....more so. The doors of perception that were opened so eloquently by the support act seem to have been left ajar. Or maybe it's just a Lau lesson in why it's always better live. 

'Saint Monday' follows. It echoes the fact that two of Lau, Aidan and Kris, are from islands "Considerably North of here;" places which influence the music they play. Like the giant sized silhouettes of the band that animate the backdrop behind them, the sonic shapes they carve into the air are as imposing as the landscape of their origin. 

Martin, though, is from Cambridgeshire, "And that's not a joke." Again, the place is heard in the music: 'Horizontigo', by Kris, is inspired by Martin's home county. 'Horizontigo' is the opposite of vertigo, a feeling experienced by people who live in high, curvy landscapes when they visit low, flatter ones. 

It's during the next number that a discernible symmetry appears between Lau and their support act. The Lau boys like their instruments very much and aren't into sharing them with their bandmates. They do share Haiku Salut's explorative spirit though, not being constrained by convention or expectation, and going where their instincts take them. Aidan's fiddle is bowed, plucked or strummed. Kris strums, noodles, and sometimes plays a bit of slide. Martin plays deft runs of notes, laid back chords or occasionally loops his accordion breathing or being percussively banged. During 'Throwing Pennies', it sounds as if it has magically come alive. The chorus has a harmony that soars in an almost Floydian way, and tempted though I am to dismiss this, the audience suggests otherwise. For among those craning forward in their seats for a better listen are a few who, by appearance at least, are a bit 'prog rock'. They seem to have avoided being sucked into the black hole of tribute acts and endless reissues, and are still walking the Earth in search of music that is original, thoughtful, sophisticated and inspired. They're having a whale of a time tonight. 

The Haiki Salut interrelationship continues into the next piece, 'Torsa'. Lau have recently released 'Lau Remixed', containing a remix of this piece by the aforementioned trio. Tonight though, we get to hear the original, unremixed version because, "We've no idea how they did it." 'The Unquiet Grave' follows. It's from their first album, 'Lightweights and Gentlemen' and Kris' delivery brings a cosy intimacy to the room. It feels like a kitchen-table session, just in very big kitchen: very apt in slow food Ludlow. 

'Save the Bees' comes later; dedicated to all the bees in the world, "Apart from the one that stung Martin's little girl." Then comes a storming instrumental crescendo, as physical a performance as you'll ever get from three blokes sitting on chairs. The magic is still with us: Lau carve out quiet hollows before our eyes, and then fill them with lovely sonic stuff. Ludlow is a place where many fine things are enjoyed, and as the band leaves the stage, we know we've experienced another fine feast.

article by: James Creaser

published: 20/11/2013 08:44

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