Lau Nau Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Mon., Sept. 15, 8 p.m. 2008

The name of Lau Nau’s second album, Nukkuu (Locust), is Finnish for “Sleeps,” and singer and multi-instrumentalist Laura Naukkarinen recorded it with her partner, Antti Tolvi, during moments snatched while their infant son napped. (She was pregnant with him when she first played Chicago three years ago.) The duo’s first album, Kuutarha, with its exotic stringed instruments and borrowed Asian sounds, felt like the work of ethnomusicologists swapping tunes around the campfire. The new disc, though far from domesticated, feels more like a collection of odd lullabies—on all but one of the songs, the guitars, flutes, fiddles, and field recordings (church bells, music boxes) are gentle enough not to wake a baby. Above this soothing but somewhat out-of-focus sound field, Naukkarinen’s multiple vocal overdubs, some in Finnish and the rest simply wordless, soar and twist like swallows on updrafts or hover like hummingbirds. Only on “Lahtolaulu,” the lone cabinet-rattling track, do the instruments compete—her vocals creep through an eerie landscape of fuzzy electric guitars whose drumless rock sound reminds me of Alastair Galbraith’s brilliant 90s recordings. Lau Nau also plays Saturday at the Empty Bottle.—Bill Meyer

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