Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Lua Union - an ethereal mix

Unlike a beer boep, balance in a band is not something affected by training or straining. It's personal, it's professional, and it's mystical.

Balance in a band is not something that can easily be pinpointed, either. I'm talking about that place where things work - the x-factor that gets things going. It may not be anything tangible, this mix of personal relationships, inspiration and hard work, but it reveals itself in the mix, on the stage, and behind the scenes.

With the imminent release of an evidently synergistic single with Flash Republic, the members of Foto Na Dans are starting to enjoy a certain 'same page'ness, making the build-up to their second album release in Feburary 2010 rather phat. The Lua Union, it seems, was born with this balance.

The Lua Union doesn't sound like a band that have only been playing for a little under eleven months. Yes, its members are still settling into their onstage skin; yes, lead vocalist Dean hasn't been a frontman for very long; and yes, bassist Jonathan (who prefers the mandolin) hasn't been in the country for very long, either. But they strike you neither as first timers, nor as amateurs. In effect, they're not really first timers or amateurs at all, at least not in a 'My First Guitar' kind of way though i'm sure some of them still insist on playing theirs. Their drummer, Francios, is a former Springbok Nude Girl. Their lead guitarist, Lucas, is the drummer of The increasingly Pretty Blue Guns. Still, previous experience is only one element in the synergy of a collective sound and it certainly isn't a guarantee of good music (just as four accomplished musos might not necessarily produce good material together). There's something else that makes a band work interpersonally and musically, something that makes it manageable and magical. That something is a mystical balance of bodies, minds and souls that lets others swallow the songs whole, and The Lua Union is a great example. Break it down, jezebel...

Drummer Francios is unphased - the root, the rhythm. Calm and warm, he keeps time with increasing sensitivity to the complexity in the songs, and syncopates its overall sound with sublime simplicity. Bassist Jonathan keeps the troubled artist cliché at bay with taut mood swings and tight strings; he is, in turn, inspired or indifferent, and by turns brilliant or bad (and i mean bad in the best sense), throwing his weight around like he doesn't have to hang on to poles when the South Easter blows. Dean is the dirty clown - bewhiskered and bewhiskeyed, he's inhumanly at ease on stage (it's almost like he doesn't realise he's on stage at all), and his bassy vocals are bottomless and his banter between songs an extenstion of his tigger spirit. While none of his characteristics seem to match each other, his velskoene and dress shirt often do. It's good for a front man to be a bit of a maverick, methinks; keeps 'em guessing. The one who keeps 'em guessing the most is the one with the least to say and hopefully lot more to sing in the near future. Lucas is the introvert, the essence, the intensity of The Lua Union. Dreamy yet undivided, his is a subtle stage presence that often surprises those who bother to work out who's doing what in a song. Watch those fingers fly, watch the room invert. If you catch his eye between shy golden locks rocking during a set, just smile - he'll get it... because he's got it. Together, these musicans are a torrent of melody that moves the cynical to joy, the criminal to change, and the minimal to main. Last night they were superb under Kunskafee's a new look and lights (and somehow still kak sound rig.)

You could feel it far beyond the front row - all four settled right into the rhythm despite a very late and undeservedly unprofessional sound check (Kunskafee, are your systems in check?). Despite that, it was pure sound channelled through flesh and blood and bone. Their unusual vocal harmonies swell with the same mood and intensity as the soaring, snapping strings do. The seamless, invisible bass blends in beautifully, backing everything, giving it substance you can't see, and the drums are intelligent enough to spar with the melodic attacks and crashes, but never beat them. Overall it's beautiful, powerful, poignant stuff that either stops you in your tracks or rips them right out righteously.

"They often remind me of Radiohead," yelled Adam Innuendo during a swell and swoosh from the guitars. I suspect Adam wasn't comparing The Lua Union to Radiohead aurally, per se, but talking about an overall dexterity and diversity; a demeanour, rather than a musical aesthetic. The next song came on, and I leaned over and yelled back at him cockily "but they don't remind you of Radiohead NOW." That's the thing about The Lua Union - their riffs and rises often recall some or other expert band, but their compositions sound nothing at all like anyone else. This is what has me so excited about them. God knows what or where it is, but they've got the muse.

They've also got the musicality and the unaffected magic to make it.

taste it

touch it

and tell others about it

(want more? ask nicely)

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