Portland-based Au (pronounced Ayy-Youuuu) represents something very special about indie-pop. Straddling a fine line between Animal Collective and Brian Eno, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Luke Wyland, drummer Dana Valatka, and a random entourage of contributing artists take neo-classical compositions to a new height with driving rhythms and the occasional, but always invigorating, vocal harmony. The result is absolutely chaotic, but nonetheless enchanting.
Setting off at a vigorous pace with the fittingly named “Epic,” Au’s first release since 2008’s Verbs, Both Lights, is symphonic in nature. The album boasts fully instrumental tracks, hyper-symphonic pop songs and captivating soundscapes, all arranged in a fashion as if they belong next to one another. And what really holds this whole album together is found in the esoteric synth sounds in each arrangement. Also contributing to this congruence are Wyland’s own vocals, simultaneously bright and dark, and often backed by a choir of female voices. All in all, what grounds each track to the other is how out of this world each composition truly is.
While the listener will probably deem some moments are higher than others (I particularly love the trippy, hyped up “OJ” and spacey-closer “Don’t Lie Down”), the group maintains a pretty high standard through the whole of the album. Wyland & Co. combine modern classical music with indie-pop, yielding consistent rate of success via curious and flamboyant arrangements. And if Both Lights ever seems too far-out to be accessible, simply put the tracks on while cooking, cleaning or any other normal chore, and you’ll find yourself pumping along to the natural groove of the album. Well done, Au.
Stream: Au – “Solid Gold”