Captivating, exquisite, stunning. The excitable flurry of deserving superlatives that followed Lau’s live performances with the Elysian Quartet were even longer than Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke’s collection of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Featured as the album’s 17-minute centrepiece, the Elysian collaboration was originally commissioned for the first New Music Biennial in early 2014. Alongside five other tracks, Lau have somehow succeeded in adding even more colours to their already expansive palette. Returning to Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland, the Scottish trio’s self-proclaimed spiritual home, The Bell That Never Rang was produced by Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman), who has given Lau a fresh outlook and removed any notion of insularity that can affect even the most open-minded of musicians. The Bell That Never Rang is less concerned with instrumental structures and individualism, and more with lush, flowing textures that Lau allow to evolve naturally through experimentation.
As a result this record is rich with emotional warmth and euphoric refrain in equal measure. It’s also an intimate affair, driven by Drever’s honeyed lilt and by lyrical themes of home and displacement, most poignantly observed on closer ‘Ghosts’, a welcomed re-recording from 2011. The distinct personalities of all three shine, yet their synergy is Lau’s strongest hand. It might be premature to call this the trio’s crowning glory, for Lau have improved with every subsequent release and I don’t believe that this trend will end anytime soon.