For brothers Ben, Aaron and Nathan Wylie and their friend Jason Nickel, music has always been a constant in their lives. As the Vancouver-based electronic ensemble Au4 (pronounced: oh-four), the four musicians have created a debut album that explores and celebrates the other endless forces that shape and bind us. On Audio, the group's new full-length release, is an uplifting, ethereal trip through the rhythms of nature and the nature of dreams, mixing blissed-out ambience with melodic, fairytale songs.
Ben Wylie (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Aaron Wylie (keyboards, vocals), Nathan Wylie (drums, percussion) and Jason Nickel (bass, vocals, keyboards) grew up on music, each starting Royal Conservatory training at a young age. In high school, the boys formed the requisite alternative rock bands, while continuing their musical study and touring in jazz, choir and theatrical productions. Jason and Nathan attended Capilano College's Jazz Studies program, while Ben and Aaron began experimenting with the electronic loops and beats which would later morph into Au4.
Inspired in part by the electronica explosion, and landmark albums by Underworld, Massive Attack, Bjork, and Nine Inch Nails, Ben and Aaron (who was also DJing in Vancouver clubs) started writing with new tools, layering and shaping sounds late into the night. In 2003, Jason Nickel heard their demos and brought them to producer/engineer Richard Dolmat. The group Au4 was officially formed along with Nathan Wylie, their brother.
On Audio was produced by Au4 and Richard Dolmat at Digital Sound Magic studios in Vancouver and is released on their own label, Torn Open Records. The nine tracks draw from trip-hop, ambient and dreampop styles, featuring the breathy, haunting vocals of Ben Wylie, who also scripted the fantastical stories of love and life.
A melancholic tone weaves throughout On Audio, but the mood is of contemplative optimism: The acoustic-guitar laced love song "Hit and Miss" undulates like a watery embrace. The bass-driven "A Mile From Here" is an up-tempo track ready for clubs. Even the epic "An Ocean’s Measure of Sorrow" rocks, a fresh take on the piano ballad. "Everything’s Always Moving" sums up the album's hypnotic qualities and themes of hope.
"'Everything Always Moving' came in a state of amazement as one reflects upon one's own existence, and how we are always affecting, always being affected, always changing each other's lives," says Ben. "There are moments when this truth becomes more apparent and it always seems to be on the heels of either great hurt or extreme joy, moments where life feels like some heavenly poem or surreal nightmare. Regardless, as we continue to pour into one another, there is a fruit that grows. Such is the beauty of life."
The result of a lifetime of love and study of music, five years of songwriting and two years of studio refinement, On Audio represents the beginning of Au4's journey. The group plans to perform live in 2006 and is working on second album of remixes from On Audio. They are also working on an innovative website, a collaboration between Ben Wylie’s visual FX background, Aaron Wylie's DigiCoyote Software company and Juno Award-winning designer Vincent Marcone. The multi-media and live aspects of Au4 complement and reinforce the band’s musical message.
"We just want to connect with people," says Aaron. "At the end of the day, there's much more satisfaction of being when you realize that, yes, there is bad and good in life, but that is our common ground. We should all try to look beyond ourselves and share the time we have. That's what, for us, music is about."