The Bell That Never Rang
Kris Drever is one of those singers who has an instantly recognisable voice and from the very first note out of his mouth you know it's him but he is just one third of the impressive Lau.
|Lau, from left Martin Green, Kris Drever and Aidan O'Rourke|
It opens with industrial sounding music which has the beat reminiscent of a piece of machinery similar to Pink Floyd's Welcome To The Machine, with Drever's voice slightly muted in the background.
But even with the music overlaid you can still tell it's Drever with Martin Green providing the effects and Aidan O'Rourke adding the highlights of his fiddle playing.
Lau do have this trait of playing with the listener where you think the track is going to build up to a great crescendo but Drever never let's it quite get there.
The Death of the Dining Car has a much more traditional strand to it, with O'Rourke providing the sawing sound of the fiddle on what has the feel of a song from fellow Scots The Proclaimers.
In this second track there is a lot of overlapping and ragged joins which should grate on you but they don't, whether by accident or design Drever's voice seems a little lost and battling against the instruments rather than being complimented by them.
Back In Love Again has a distinct blues opening created by Drever's impressive guitar skills. This gives ways to a gentler ballad style of playing which is accented by Green on the Wurlitzer just before there is another change of pace as Drever's voice comes back in, this time carried along by the accordion.
It's one of the those tracks where they are throwing everything at the listener just to make sure they are getting their money's worth.
By now you realise this is an album that needs more than one hearing and isn't going to be to everyone's taste but it does have enough folky elements to keep it rooted in the traditional but also has enough innovation to make a fascinating set of tracks.
Green's musical wizardry brings in Tiger Hill and like a soundtrack to a psychedelic animation from the hippy era. The strands of the instruments unfold and then collapse in on themselves to create a dystopian sound.
Behind this is the haunting sound of Drever's voice yet again, the repetitive rhythm and looping sounds give a hypnotic quality which marked the age of psychedelia. It then leads you into a false sense of security with a restful interlude before Drever's voice comes bursting back in.
The title track is the behemoth at more than 17 minutes long. It seems to hark back to the days of concept albums and indulgent guitar solos.
Its intro has a strong classical feel while at the same time giving the impression of a drunken haze, with the strings lazily sliding in and out. O'Rourke was obviously given free reign to indulge his talent for expressive fiddle playing. It does have elements which bring to mind The Lark Ascending and it is firmly routed in the classical side of music rather than the folk arena.
There is a lot of music to listen to in this one track but the trio make sure it never gets stale or tedious and for most of it Drever takes a back seat.
When he does come in his voice comes clear through the layers of music like a master tailor's scissors. This is not a track for those with a short attention span; you listen to this you are in for the long haul.
This is like an encyclopaedia of sound, about the only musical tone it hasn't got is a Hawaiian bamboo nose flute.
The final track is almost as if things have come full circle, it goes back to the more traditional format of Drever's distinct singing and his simple and gentle guitar playing.
Ghosts is one of the ballads which Lau and Drever do so well. It's atmospheric, haunting as the title suggests yet at the same time restful and indulgent due to Drever's soft and slightly nasal tones.
The Bell That Never Rang is certainly different to anything which is around at the moment and its originality may be a little too experimental for some folk purists but there is enough tradition in there for Lau to argue their case.
The Bell That Never Rang is out now on Reveal Records and you can catch the band live at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry on May 24. Lau are supported by Ella Bird (formerly Siobhan Wilson) and the show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £18.