Every once in a while we get the pleasure of somehow randomly stumbling onto a band whose capabilities make it surprising that they're not one of the most famous acts around. Au4 is one of those bands, at least as far as I'm concerned. In 2006, when I was a staff writer at the college alternative weekly in Long Beach, I found myself clutching a promo copy of their debut album, On: Audio. The album was a magnificent one, a forward-thinking hybridization of trip-hop and hard rock, something akin to Nine Inch Nails by way of Björk. On: Audio featured bold live arrangements set against a backdrop of electronics, and set about telling its story in grandiose terms, each song more epic and thick than the last. Au4 were clearly aiming high, and doing so right out of the gate. Their first album was an impressive effort, well-produced and sounding good, whether it sound was necessarily your thing or not. There's really no arguing with the fact that Au4 is a group of talented musicians who know their way around songwriting and arrangement. "Everyone Is Everyone (and Everything Is Everything)" [soundcloud url="http://soundcloud.com/au4-band/everyone-is-everyone"]
Of course, this was all seven years ago. It's been nearly a decade, and while I never forgot about On: Audio, I was never sure whether or not I'd hear from Au4 again. Then, in January, I got an email from a friend (one with whom I had shared Au4 a while back) telling me they had put out a new album. And holy shit.
Au4 have shown themselves to have much more than just one fantastic album in them, and seven years was seriously worth the wait. Their second album ...And Down Goes the Sky is pretty goddamn masterful, expanding their sound and introducing new elements in ways that bring an incredible depth of emotion and energy to the table. Epic in scale and huge in scope, ...And Down Goes the Sky improves upon the formula Au4 created with their first album, boasting impeccably-produced songs that form a cohesive and complete work. Though the materials on their website make it clear, you don't need them to realize that ...And Down Goes the Sky—much like On: Audio—is meant to be taken as whole, listened to in single sittings, all the way through. The experience is a rewarding one.
...And Down Goes the Sky walks a landscape of different textures, managing to keep them all rooted in a signature sound. Penultimate track "Planck Length" is one of two straight four-to-the-floor jams that Au4 pull off with surprising dexterity, and they're embedded within an album that primarily finds its footing in hard rock. The live drums that made On: Audio such a fun experience are definitely still present here, alongside a good deal of other live instrumentation, but the Brothers Wiley and bandmate Jason Nickel make it clear that they're as interested in painting with an electronic palette as they were seven years ago.
What works the best for these gentelmen is the degree to which they're able to work hard rock into their epic, storytelling-oriented style of music-makery. "The Propagation of Light (Through the Ether of Emotion)" is a propulsive electronic dance track that nestles right up against standout cut "So Just Hang On, Beautiful One" (a song that's both soaring and intimate at the same time), which seamlessly bleeds into the swaggering bass line of "In Three Seconds I'll Be Gone." For a band that's put out two albums over the course of the last seven years, these dudes really know what they're doing.
"So Just Hang On, Beautiful One" [soundcloud url="http://soundcloud.com/au4-band/so-just-hang-on-beautiful-one"]