Fred Frith is a songwriter, composer, improviser, and multi-instrumentalist best known for the reinvention of the electric guitar that began with Guitar Solos in 1974. He was the subject of Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel’s award-winning documentary film Step Across the Border (watch it below). Anyone who has watched it will know that from the very opening scene you are thrown head first into the extraordinary world of Frith, from cacophonous scores accompanying the over crowded streets of New York to discussions on chaos theory, cause and effect. There are many magical moments in the film including a visit to the ‘Selluliod Restaurant’ (possibly in Japan) where some amazing sounds are created from a lantern like instrument that swings from the ceiling, the sort of thing Martin Green from Lau would love to get his hands on. There is a very memorable moment in the film when he’s sat in a Japanese street vendor’s pop-up restaurant explaining what makes him tick. His passion for his music can be clearly perceived in the film as his eyes widen with joy as he explains how his contact with the audience is essential to him as an improviser “you need to have feedback” he states. He’s also a believer that art should not be a way of asserting one’s originality, rather it is a way freeing one self, it is a way of life. On many levels you can draw comparisons to Frith’s world and that of Lau. Their work shouts freedom louder than any other band performing the folk circuits today, it’s an intrinsic part of their performance.
I’ve watched Lau develop over the years and for me personally their greatness lies in their many improvisational moments when their sound breaks out, is set free in mad free-jazz like spirals before Drever pulls them all back into line…that crossover of escape and return always illicits cheers from an audience. I don’t know of any other band that gets away with such experimentalism in their music leaving you wanting more!
With a new album due out in 2015 who knows what they have in store for us…in the meantime enjoy our TUNE of the Day. This is Lau performing Gallowhill with the incredible Fred Frith. The video was filmed by the ever talented Baylis Gray at Lau-Land Sage Gateshead in May 2014, the man has an instinctive knack for capturing the magic of such performances through the lens.
Lau-Land returns this month, see below and read our recent interview with Aidan here.
Over three nights (Thu 27 – Sat 29 Nov) Lau present music that inspires them – from the upcoming songwriters support acts (Siobhan Wilson and Adam Holmes) through the exceptional truthful-soul of New York’s Joan As Police Woman (Fri 28) to Scottish folk legends Dick Gaughan and Capercaille (Sat 29). Lau-Land will culminate in an end of festival party featuring Anaïs Mitchell and other remarkable guests.
More details here: www.lau-music.co.uk/lau-land-home
Step Across the Border (1990), a documentary about Fred Frith