To say that Au makes music that is larger than life would be doing them a disservice, as their music is a life into and of itself. Often theatrical, idiosyncratic and bi-polar, Au makes one believe in the moving power of music again.
Au’s sophomore album, Verbs, envelops listeners in myriad pushes and pulls of musical emotion. These auditory experiments are massive in scope—ranging from the sorrowful use of saws to the employment of orchestral circus themes—but perhaps their most impressive feature is that these songs never threaten to collapse under their own ambition.
To say that Au (pronounced “Ay-You”) makes music that is larger than life would be doing them a disservice, as their music is a life into and of itself. Often theatrical, idiosyncratic and bi-polar, Au makes one believe in the moving power of music again.
As Luke Wyland, brain trust behind Au, told the Vanguard, “All in all, my records are simple accounts of my life, so they feel pretty cohesive to me.”
There is a paradox here that is inevitable. There can be no simple account of a life—as Wyland is probably aware—and it shows through the swells, crescendos and decrescendos of his musical odysseys.
His real life odyssey with Au started in 2005 after recording his first album under the moniker “Luc.” That name soon transformed into Au to include the other members that were part of the live show. This was all happening during the time when Wyland was attending the Massachusetts College of Art and finishing up his BFA.
While Wyland claims not to listen to much music these days, he had a bevy of musical influences early in his life.
“It’s all pretty ingrained,” says Wyland. “A history of half-assed classical piano lessons when I was young, an eventual rejection of music in general and then a return to it in high school found me wandering through ’60s psychedlia, free jazz and art-rock.”
He was inspired by the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, the ’60s minimalism of Terry Riley and John Cage, the songwriting of Bob Dylan and Phil Elvrum (of the Microphones) and classical composers Bartok and Ravel. His collaborators only lengthen the list of musical influences.
Wyland’s main accomplice in all things Au is Dana Valatka, who comes mainly from a metal background. Wyland has cited this as being a large part of why there is so much energy behind the two-man band.
Though in the studio Wyland collaborates with many instrumentalists, when Au goes on the road—and they have toured extensively in the states as well as abroad—it is only he and Valatka in front of audiences.
“As a two piece,” Wyland says, “there really is a lot of responsibility on each of our shoulders to carry a lot of sound and energy to make up for the lack of other players on stage. I love this as there is a lot more flexibility to find new interpretations of the songs each night as there is only one line of communication, and the level of intimacy is greater to the audience.”
This rings true for Au’s recordings as well. Walking the line between minimalist, hushed isolation and large choral, “carpe diem” celebrations, Au is accessible even in its most subjectively intimate moments. Though, as Wyland points out, there is definitely a strong divide between the recorded imagination and the live re-imaginings of the songs.
“We don’t get the same sound as the recordings,” admits Wyland. “But I’ve never wanted that. Both worlds exist very separately for me. The recordings are a time and medium in which to dream big and follow your fancy over an extended amount of time, building up simple ideas into living breathing things that the listener can form a relationship with. Hopefully alive enough to require multiple visits and in each finding something new.”
The fact that Au transmits this sense of “aliveness” not only in their live shows but through their albums as well is a testament to the honesty and heroics of the men behind the Au machine.
Never once do they seem deterred from making fresh tracks in the sand and taking listeners along with them to where intimacy is revealed and employed as an instrument.