Animal Collective, Bonobo
Oregon-based Au is a two-man outfit consisting of pianist Luke Wyland and percussionist Dana Valatka along with various collaborators bringing us their fourth album, Both Lights. This release tends to leap around between up-tempo, progressive rhythms to somber, quite compositions, as it can be a bit overwhelming. With piano arrangements, saxophone, clattering percussion, hand claps and unusual use of vocals throughout, there is a lot being thrown into this album, making it feel a bit misdirected.
Let’s start with the opening track "Epic", it’s an energetic four-minute instrumental track that has a progressive rock feeling, which is fine for about the first two-and-a-half minutes, but eventually goes nowhere and gets unnerving. The quirky "Get Alive" has a Mumford & Sons meets Fun style to it as the ending has a unique touch with the chants of "get alive" and the horn section, showing some diversity. "OJ" has the same vibrant-offbeat sound, combining the uses of electronic percussion, echoed vocals and a dubbed sounding bass. The song “Solid Gold” goes through so many changes that it’s difficult to take in at first, yet they pull it off and make sense of it all, it seems to have an early Yes feeling to it. The instrumental "Why I Must" can be exasperating, but displays some intense drumming and piano arrangements, showing how these two artists complement each others style. With songs like "Crazy Idol", "Go Slow" and "Old Friend", we hear the softer side of Au, where vocals and pianos are the main attraction. "The Veil", which falls into this category, is an impressive instrumental piece with a hypnotic, distorted piano leading the way, which sounds great when cranked to 11. "Don’t Lie Down", the albums closer is a powerful, ambient song where the drums sound astonishing.
Both Lights is a creative and attention-grabbing album that is unique, yet it tends to have no direction at times. That’s probably what they had in mind as it has a sense of improvisation that Wyland and Valatka put forth. With elements of psych, rock, folk, jazz, choral vocals and electronics, the result is an album filled with a ton of styles being mashed together; sometimes it works and other times it’s just too much. Perhaps this may translate better in a live show.
Standout Tracks: The Veil, Get Alive