Au.Ra have been announced as part of the upcoming LO-Fi//SCI-Fi at the Chippendale Hotel on December 19th.
Sydney/London duo Au.Ra, consisting of Tim Jenkins and Tom Crandles, make stunning psychedelic pop soundscapes heavily influenced by the sound of 'shoegazing' - thick, hazy swarms of electric guitars and vocals - and other genres that add up to a very distinctive blend. While, their tight, economical debut album Jane's Lament may come up a little short in the department of hooks, that is more than made up for in the sheer beauty that Au.Ra conjure.
Every sound on the record seems to have been laboured over to be as effective and evocative as possible, yet at the same time sounds absolutely effortless. The guitars swoop around the driving motorik beat on opener "Morning" like semis passing on a starlit highway. The intensely unnatural reverb on "Sun" breaks every sound into shards, like staring at an impossibly bright object through a laser-cut glass prism. The screech and whine of the guitars on "Pyramid" resembles an electrical storm gathering during a gale. And that's just the first three songs.
Jane's Lament is at its most interesting when it veers away from rock music. The synth-soaked innervisions of "You're on My Mind," split the difference between uptempo dub and pulsing funk and the ambient textures developed in the ghostly arpeggios of minute-long experiment "Juki" continue in the Jackson Pollock splatters of noise that colour the intro to clear standout "Spare the Thought." Despite the experimentation that Au.Ra indulge in, though, the album remains cohesive because the band are skilled at working within a limited sonic palette - essentially a traditional rock setup - without letting in confine them.
Not every track is a complete success. "Talk Show" is overly long and its melody drab, and the closing "Width," consisting of electronic noises placed together seemingly at random, feels pretty pointless. Tracks like the former show Au.Ra's main weakness, and that is that their skills as soundsmiths are often making up for song-writing that is a little lacking. This is a record that isn't about hooks or melodies, but built on repetition, texture and tone. As such, it is easy for it to veer over the line into tedium.
Thankfully, that happens very rarely. Jane's Lament is a bold statement of purpose for a band that are a fresh and exciting voice in Australian rock music. By turns dream and empowering, easy-going and urgent, this album is a fully-formed work and one of the finest Australian albums released so far this year. You're unlikely to hear any other indie rock records that are this easy to lose yourself in and return to again and again.