posted by Seth Nehil
photo by Carole Zoom
Luke Wyland is a restless composer. He is constantly experimenting, tweaking and changing his songs, searching for new sounds. He will often alter the instrumentation, tempo, syncopation and mood of a song from concert to concert. You can see the sense of discovery and elation on Luke’s face when he witnesses a new rendition pouring forth. Sometimes a song shifts dramatically from show to show. “Boute” started as a kind of rolling piano ballad, and has moved from plaintive to joyful to funky. At the Works, the song was a burst of marching band drums, huge chants and African-inflected guitar. Sometimes the change to a song’s structure has been gradual, as with “Death”, which has morphed from a quiet, bluesy lament (including Sarah Winchester’s airy vocals) into a sludgy metal jam. Each time I hear it, the song gets slower, muddier and heavier. I think it would be refreshing to revisit the more subtle emotions of the original version.

Au’s music aims for transcendence. Luke wants to carry us away in waves of sound, expansive arrangements and building movements. Au’s concert at the Works started quietly, with Luke playing solo accordion. Over the course of the set, band members joined him on stage, a strategy that reminded me a bit of the classic Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense (minus the big suit and lamp-dancing). Because of the “growing” quality of both Luke’s songs and the trajectory of the concert, I often feel that his music forgets to be where it is. On the one hand, each moment seems to be stretching, longing, reaching for release. For me this can create an anxious sense of extended expectation, a feeling that the music is not quite “settling in”. On the other hand, when the groove finally does kick in, it can feel like an explosion. That was certainly the case with the last, ecstatic burst of “Are Animals”. It seemed that the entire audience was part of the music, with 3 female singers, a 20 person choir, four or five additional drummers, an extra guitar player and everyone around me clapping and laughing. The infectious melody was driven completely over the top by the marching drums and choir – a total pop gem.
This concert gave me a real glimpse of where Luke wants to bring his music. It would be great to see him working more with the extended palette we heard here. How about a horn section, a children’s choir, bagpipes, a string quartet, a hundred jaw harps? Au’s sound is inclusive enough, its vision big enough and its composer is ready for the adventure.