The Light on the Shore strand of the Edinburgh International Festival has seen some intriguing line-ups so far this month, but Lau-Land deserves special mention for its wonderfully eclectic programme.
Curated by the three members of Lau, who are celebrating ten years together, it brought together a dozen acts that span the genres from brass band to trance-funk with all sorts of curiosities in between. Spreading the action out across various corners of this meandering venue was a clever touch that contributed to the mini-festival vibe and allowed established acts and jam sessions to share the same bill.
First up on the main stage were Lau themselves, showcasing their own genre-defying hybrid of soaring, toe-tapping folk electronica. Their music is both recognisably traditional and fabulously inventive, wringing sounds from the fiddle and the accordion (and the guitar) that seem implausible yet totally natural.
They were succeeded by the main act of the evening, Joan As Police Woman. It might have been the final date of her world tour but Joan Wasser and her band did not flag as they powered through most of Damned Devotion, the current album. She also found time for some older tracks – ‘I Defy’ and a wildly deconstructed ‘Christobel’, both from 2006’s Real Life, were stand-outs. Wasser slips effortlessly between lead guitar, violin and keyboards, but it’s her voice that thrills most. Her sublime version of ‘Kiss’ at the end of the set revealed the hidden melodies at the heart of the Prince classic, turning it into a slinky, sinuous manifesto fit for 2018.
Other highlights of the night included Scottish brass band champions the Whitburn Band playing ‘Time for Outrage’, Marco Putz’s powerful and dramatic call to arms; young fiddle quartet Rant with their richly layered strathspeys, traditional Scottish songs and original compositions; and James Holden and the Animal Spirits, whose pulsating trance-funk-whatever sounds like, well, nothing on earth.
Lau-Land, wherever it is, is a country without borders. We should all spend more time there.
Lau-Land, Leith Theatre, 16 Aug, 7pm