Au Au

Portland, OR’s Au are difficult to define. They inhabit some musical halfway house where no one genre-defining label is sufficient. But in our post-everything world, this is often the norm and the group take full advantage. Using both improvisational and pop-based structures, Au (pronounced "ay you”) tie in backwoods folk, avant-garde classical, free jazz and art rock while displaying an exquisite sense of space and texture. This sonic amalgamation comes at the hands of multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland, who, along with guests Zoë Wright and Sarah Winchester (both of A Weather), uses whispered vocals more as an instrumental tool than a lyrical one. And in a sense, Au explore similar territories as Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, but from a more classically trained school of thought. In fact, several songs on this debut ("Shelter” and "Ask the River”) lie closer to the works of John Cage or Terry Riley than the twisted psychedelia of either animal-dubbed outfit. Nevertheless, the most pop-oriented tracks, like "Boute,” become highlights where slow piano figures often build into dizzying bursts of drums, yelps and other random clatter. Au make pop and improv live comfortably side by side, a commendable achievement by anyone’s standards. (Oedipus)