Celtic Connections review: Lau/Annabelle Chvostek

FOR many, if not most, Scottish acts who appear at Celtic Connections, it’s not enough simply to perform their standard current set – even if, as in Lau’s case, that would still guarantee a world-class show.

Laus Martin Green, Kris Drever and Aidan ORourke gave us old, new and collaborative. Picture: Donald Macleod

Celtic Connections

Lau/Annabelle Chvostek

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City Halls, Glasgow,

Star rating: * * * * *

Instead it’s an occasion to pull out a stop or two by bringing on special guests, unveiling fresh material or launching a new collaboration – or, as in Lau’s case, all of the above, with this sellout gig incorporating the première of The Bell That Never Rang, a group composition jointly commissioned by the festival and the PRSF New Music Biennial, which featured the multi-award-winning trio alongside contemporary-classical adventurers the Elysian Quartet.

The often symphonic lavishness and complexity of Lau’s music – despite its seemingly modest components of fiddle, guitar, voice and accordion – found natural common ground with the Elysian players’ more accustomed territory, in a succession of beautifully arrayed minimalist-style sequences. Elsewhere, both outfits’ taste for the experimental and outlandish took flight in a dense, otherworldly mesh of woozy glissandos, while Chris Drever’s vocal passages provided a wonderfully authoritative, warmly resonant core to the piece as a whole.

Either side of this superb musical centrepiece, Lau tore into a selection of material from their latest album, Race the Loser, plus a few older favourites, in typically electrifying fashion, while Canadian opening act Annabelle Chvostek, a former member of acclaimed harmony trio the Wailin’ Jennys, optimally warmed up the crowd with her exhilarating bluegrass-hued songwriting and vibrantly impassioned vocals.

Seen on 30.01.14