Portland, Oregon duo AU have never sounded more alive, more vibrant and more human than on Both Lights. Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka have channelled their need for catharsis into the physical side of making music: the pleasure of connecting with real instruments; writing intricate, multi-layered songs; astonishing live performances. It makes their music immediately engaging, lending it a razor-sharp energy, even at its quietest and most contemplative.
Both Lights, their long awaited third album and first for The Leaf Label, is the closest their recorded incarnation has yet reached to the blissful force of an AU live show, both expanding outward in new directions and tightly honing their compositional abilities.
Luke Wyland is the leader and principal songwriter of AU (pronounced Ay-You ). After recording his debut album peaofthesea under the name luc in 2005, the band came together as he began to perform live. Over a number of records and various live incarnations Wyland s songwriting matured, from 2007 s softly-spoken Au to their last full-length proper, 2008 s acclaimed Verbs. Faced with the realities of touring full-time, Wyland teamed up with drummer Dana Valatka and set about rearranging Verbs densely layered songs to suit this new, slimmed down AU.
Having spent his teens and twenties playing in metal and exploratory rock bands, Valatka s hard-hitting approach to percussion and wild onstage energy was a further catalyst for transformation. Their work as a duo became increasingly collaborative, pushing them both to the limits of their own playing abilities. Their live shows shifted to match, simultaneously more intense and more exuberant, with Valatka on percussion and Wyland taking care of everything else: vocals, keyboard, sampler, lap steel, banjo and melodica (often two or more at once). The first recorded result was 2009 s tremendous Versions EP, featuring radical reworkings of songs from Verbs, on which the duo carefully pared away any extraneous material, leaving the raw emotional matter of the songs intact and exposed.