The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Versions Iain Moffat , December 22nd, 2009 08:36

Of all the from-out-of-nowhere performances that took place on the festival circuit this year, the most outstanding - yes, perhaps even moreso than Faith No More's 'From Out Of Nowhere' performance at Reading and Leeds - was surely one of the smaller-tent offerings in the home stretch of End Of The Road. A fine line-up, certainly, but, taken as a whole, it was awash with country this, blues that, and folk the other, which allowed Au (pronounced in a near-tribute to the Rocksteady Crew rather than a more sympatheic reading) to set out their stall astonishingly; basically, if you were after someone to bring the odd, they're your men...

Well, we say men, but there's been a remarkable, all-welcoming fluidity to the lineup over the years (though the current live iteration is unusually economical, comprising lynchpin Luke Wyland and erstwhile Jackie-O Motherfucker sticksman Dana Valatka), and this freeform approach is very much hardwired into their music, which means that even an EP reworking their oeuvre, which is what this is, makes for an intriguing endeavour in its own right. Indeed, their reimagining of some of the explorations from previous high watermark 'Verbs' is outright fascinating: 'RR vs. D', previously a virtual Tex Avery cartoon in which a pre-Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips flail around in an effort not to be squashed by a falling player piano, adopts an even more forthright urgency and a synthetic air that's buoyed by almost Antonyesque vocals to kitschly compelling effect, the lovely 'All Myself' is extended from its railway-departure beginnings somewhere even more lachrymose and panoramic, all muted horns, percussive shimmer, and cigarette-holder-wielding languor, and the shiftingly vibrant Afrobeat of 'Are Animals' is utterly gutted in favour of giddy carousel good-timery whose audacity exudes a fearless teeth-rotting tingle.

All terrifically exciting and somewhat confrontationally joyous stuff, as you'd imagine, and catnip to anyone who's gleaned a particular glee in the breakthroughs of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective this year, as are the older and, in one case, newer gems showcased here, with 'Boute' drizzled in lysergic luminosity (and - and yes, this is a frequent feature, but disarmingly, delightfully so - a rampant recklessness where time signatures are concerned), the bracingly brief 'Ashimoto Ne' rattling away in the style of Sparks collaborating with the Boredoms on a loosely interpreted cover of Brakes' 'All Night Disco Party', and virginal track 'Ida Walked Away' has qualities both wild and beastly as well as employing some deliciously offset surf guitar and cavalier choral incorporation for circularly summery ends. Not only are Wyland's wanderers golden by name, but, even on what could easily have been a placeholding enterprise, they're thoroughly wondrous by nature...

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.