The High Llamas: C or D?

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i just bought Cold and Bouncy for US$2 found in a bargain bin, and i'm just listening to it now.
the songs sound drippy lazy like Hawaii a bit, but all those synth noises/ kraftwerk samples, they seem to be much more foreground, and perhaps as the foil for the strings, and i think they actually inter-chime with the muzak-like ambience in quite interesting ways. the noises are performing a dance with the lush otherness and hopefully they'll save the album from that.

i like stereolab for the synths, bass, drums, horns, strings, disco, more synths, vocals, guitar, probably in that order, but at least all at once
i can see now that 'lab had the tunes and rhyhtms, while o'hagan provided plenty of atmosphere. since there's only so much from the 'lab and i dunno, maybe that's it anyway, which would be very sad as i think they were going in a great new direction, having somewhat jettisoned the guitar rock or at least made it sound like something other than guitar rock, the tragic forced exit of some of the bubble-vocals would make for an interesting album made more of semi-instrumentals i reckon.

anyway i can hear all those noises on this later llamas record, and if the songs themselves make me think of paul mccartney, with all the best intentions and hand-picked band etc. etc., this makes me think that the greatest music from these guys does still boil down to the mandatory good harmonic tune, so i think the llamas-lab axis should continue, with all those noises included. maybe a new band, tripartite songwriting.

george gosset (gegoss), Thursday, 18 September 2003 19:58 (sixteen years ago) link

george i couldn't agree with you more.

gygax! (gygax!), Thursday, 18 September 2003 20:37 (sixteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Damn, there were vocals on that?! ;)

Just bought Beet, Maize & Corn. Just finished listening and it seems like I just put it on. Beautifully done background music. Emphasis on background. To give it some credit, I think it would make for great baby-making music. It evokes springtime to a T.

Francis Watlington (Francis Watlington), Saturday, 25 October 2003 16:51 (sixteen years ago) link

Thankfully, it's only 40 mins. long!

Francis Watlington (Francis Watlington), Saturday, 25 October 2003 16:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Classic, especially the swishy meanders through Cold and Bouncy and Snowbug. And because my first date with my future wife was at a High Llamas performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum's LATER night !

darren (darren), Sunday, 26 October 2003 19:54 (sixteen years ago) link

two months pass...
Has anyone else heard Beet, Maize, and Corn? I'm thinking about seeing them live at the end of Feb., but I haven't heard the new material yet. Is it worth picking up? I have to admit, when I heard that the drums and electronics were almost entirely absent, I became wary, but jeez, I'm listening to the Beach Boys' Smile right now and loving it...

jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 23 January 2004 20:33 (sixteen years ago) link

I was thinking about this too; they're playing the Troubadour ...

dean! (deangulberry), Friday, 23 January 2004 21:10 (sixteen years ago) link

Beet, Maize, and Corn is great.. for those of you who missed the days of Gideon Gaye and Hawaii... which I did.. sorely.

If O'Hagan brings a small orchestra with him, I'll gladly hop along and see the Llamas when/if they come to town. I saw them many years tour for "Hawaii", and it was absolutely amazing. Later, I saw them tour for "Cold and Bouncy" and it was... well, not amazing.

donut bitch (donut), Friday, 23 January 2004 21:16 (sixteen years ago) link

Beet, Maize & Corn is the new "Skylarking" with bossanova bits.

wuperetta, Saturday, 24 January 2004 00:23 (sixteen years ago) link

"Beet, Maize & Corn" is fantastic... beautifully wistful stuff. I do think a pared-down, live instrument sound is most effective for them, although "Snowbug" (tinged with exotica that one) is excellent and the best of their previous 3 records. BM&C actually seems the most subtle, refined HLs album since "Gideon Gaye" and is possibly even more cohesive (and a very concise 40 minutes) than that. A regretful, very English sound this time... must be a lot to do with the mournful brass.

*Highly recommended*.

Tom May (Tom May), Wednesday, 28 January 2004 01:32 (sixteen years ago) link

but.his.voice... love the instrumentals but i really have nothing but contempt for that paper-thin voice.

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 28 January 2004 01:38 (sixteen years ago) link

I think it works well in context; certainly does it little harm. His very undemonstrative voice is really part of that singular High Llamas sound.

Tom May (Tom May), Wednesday, 28 January 2004 01:41 (sixteen years ago) link

hey, i liked cold and bouncy!

Eisbär (llamasfur), Wednesday, 28 January 2004 01:42 (sixteen years ago) link

"Cold & Bouncy" is certainly good at least, but not really that consistent. Not quite as beguiling as (the admittedly also inconsistent, overlong) "Hawaii", as far as I recall.

Tom May (Tom May), Wednesday, 28 January 2004 02:11 (sixteen years ago) link

eight months pass...
I just felt tempted to throw on "Might As Well Be Dumbo", the (aforementioned) lead track on the Hawaii bonus track -- and it's fantastic. No thin voice, no indebted arrangments or anything -- just a really swell melody. Think I'll play it again...

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Saturday, 16 October 2004 02:37 (fifteen years ago) link

'Beet, Maize and Corn' was totally my soundtrack for Autumn '03. Time to dig that disc out again, I think. It really works most splendidly against a backdrop of red and gold leaves.

retort pouch (retort pouch), Saturday, 16 October 2004 02:55 (fifteen years ago) link

'Hawaii' made my wife fly into a rage. Something about the slowness and repetition of it really got on her tits.

retort pouch (retort pouch), Saturday, 16 October 2004 03:02 (fifteen years ago) link

Wow! Needless to say, it's...not really that kind of record. Interesting.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Saturday, 16 October 2004 03:06 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, really. I was surprised at the violence of her reaction to it. I should play some Brian Eno for her, just to see what happens.

retort pouch (retort pouch), Saturday, 16 October 2004 03:17 (fifteen years ago) link

'Beet Maize and Corn' is beautiful.

definitely a favorite disc of mine.

reo, Saturday, 16 October 2004 03:32 (fifteen years ago) link

They have a good album and you fools haven't touched on it. It's called Buzzle Bee. Beets Maize & Corn is boring.

god of rock, Saturday, 16 October 2004 04:22 (fifteen years ago) link

i hold every wrong opinion re: HL

utterly classic
search: almost everything, *especially* Buzzle Bee, think S O'Hagen was the 2nd best thing that ever happened to Stereolab,(John McEntire being the 1st- wrong wrong wrong)
destroy: Gideon Gaye

and the student has become the teacher - Brian who?
-said for effect

tremendoid, Saturday, 16 October 2004 04:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Gideon Gaye's pretty good, you should give it another shot.

hstencil (hstencil), Saturday, 16 October 2004 04:28 (fifteen years ago) link

I will, actually - I sold GG a long time ago(gave it a good chance when I had it, however)

tremendoid, Saturday, 16 October 2004 04:45 (fifteen years ago) link

Buzzle Bee? Ugh, that's so not their best work.

jaymc, Saturday, 16 October 2004 07:21 (fifteen years ago) link

think S O'Hagen was the 2nd best thing that ever happened to Stereolab

this i agree with, Sean's arrangement work is by far is greatest strength, and he's feckin good at it. Buzzle Bee is no more or less dull than most of the HLs stuff.

the surface noise (slight return) (electricsound), Saturday, 16 October 2004 07:26 (fifteen years ago) link

"Giddy And Gay" and "Checkin In And Checking Out" were excellent songs. They have their moments otherwise too, but way too often they seem stuck in the elevator with Ray Conniff and James Last.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Saturday, 16 October 2004 15:28 (fifteen years ago) link

jaymc, grow ears--it so is their best. The rest of their crap before it is boring wannabe Beach Boys snooze, and everything else is just unlistenable, like a baby playing with a synthesizer. Maybe interesting when it came out but it hasn't aged well.

god of rock, Saturday, 16 October 2004 17:02 (fifteen years ago) link

The first track on Santa Barbara is fantastic Steely-fun, as I recall...

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Saturday, 16 October 2004 19:19 (fifteen years ago) link

two years pass...
New record: Feb 20. "Can Cladders." Looks like it is 'out there'- anybody heard it?

bangelo (bangelo), Thursday, 25 January 2007 22:35 (thirteen years ago) link

I got me a promo--it is fantastic! Obviously, there are great string arrangements and beautiful melodies galore--the main difference this time around is the addition of some soulful female backup vocals, which work surprisingly well. Very nice. I love this band.

Tyler W (tylerw), Thursday, 25 January 2007 23:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Do you know who sings those backup vocals? I just listened to an mp3 on the Drag City site.

jaymc (jaymc), Thursday, 25 January 2007 23:33 (thirteen years ago) link

No one I've heard of:
Winnie Asmah, Tania Degale, Sylvia Arthur, Kelsey Michael are the credits on the liners.
There's also some very nice harp work (and a shout out to Dorothy Ashby!)

Tyler W (tylerw), Thursday, 25 January 2007 23:40 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Good album, though I haven't heard much of them since perhaps 'Snowbug'.
'The Old Spring Town' is really beautiful.

zeus, Tuesday, 6 March 2007 14:07 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm pretty sure Kelsey Michael has contributed to several Llamas albums.

jaymc, Tuesday, 6 March 2007 14:26 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Has anyone here heard the Musical Wheel thing that Sean O'Hagan put together with some French artist? The soundtrack for La Vie D'Artiste last year was excellent, so I imagine this is just as inspired/interesting:

teflon monkey, Monday, 23 June 2008 20:39 (twelve years ago) link

two years pass...

It's probably a D&L thing but Cold & Bouncy has bullied its way into my very being. I accept that I have little/no taste but bugger it.

TS: Toad of Toad Hall v Wobbie of Wobbies World (Autumn Almanac), Friday, 22 October 2010 11:58 (nine years ago) link

I've always loved Buzzle Bee.

corey, Friday, 22 October 2010 14:07 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

new one: Talahomi Way, out 4/19/11.

tylerw, Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:19 (nine years ago) link


Sean O'Hagan is a genius IMO. Creates worlds with his music. It's not so much about the songwriting to me.

mjqjazzjbar (teflon monkey), Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:32 (nine years ago) link

yeah, the albums are wonderful sonic journeys -- dunno if o'hagen has written a ton of great "songs", but he's a master at (like you say) creating little worlds.

tylerw, Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:39 (nine years ago) link

I view him in the tradition of like Penguin Cafe Orchestra. It's music that takes you away, gliding over the sea, wandering through snow valleys. Just really strikes the right chord with me, plus he does great work for other bands.

I think when he has written actual "songs," he's done a great job. "Put Yourself Down" on the first High Llamas album is something I go back to often and I think Can Cladders could be considered the most song-oriented album he's done since the early days. I enjoyed that one immensely.

mjqjazzjbar (teflon monkey), Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:42 (nine years ago) link

Psyched for this even though I thought Can Cladders wasn't as good as it could have been.

Moodles, Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:45 (nine years ago) link

i thought can cladders deserved a little more attention than it got. my fave is still gideon gaye, but i don't think they've made a bad album yet.

tylerw, Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:46 (nine years ago) link

Anyone check out the latest soundtrack, the Copacabana OST with Tim Gane? I enjoyed it. Pretty insubstantial and sounds about what you'd expect it to sound like, but I'm fond of that niche so it's been one I come back to.

Album art for the new one is on here:

mjqjazzjbar (teflon monkey), Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:49 (nine years ago) link

i'd like to hear that sdtk, but haven't gotten around to it.
in case anyone's interested i interviewed o'hagan around the time of can cladders:

tylerw, Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:53 (nine years ago) link

I have a major soft spot for '90s High Llamas albums, but I feel like everything they've done in the past decade has suffered from diminishing returns. As a fan, I'll still listen to the new album, but I guess I just don't expect anything from them anymore.

Tyler/Perry's "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" (jaymc), Wednesday, 26 January 2011 19:04 (nine years ago) link

Fantastic news. Excited. Love everything they've done.

Touch of Death, Friday, 28 January 2011 01:29 (nine years ago) link

four weeks pass...

Love the art.

mjqjazzjbar (teflon monkey), Friday, 25 February 2011 20:48 (nine years ago) link

I always find with the Llamas that their albums sound a much of a muchness until I've had them on a few times, and then suddenly it clicks and it becomes as essential as anyone else they've ever done. I've never understood the "lift muzak" accusation.

I think "Sailing Bells" and "Honeytrap" off Can Cladders might be my two favourite tracks of theirs. Perfect music to walk home to on a summer evening.

Pheeel, Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:03 (nine years ago) link

yeah this made my day

tylerw, Friday, 24 April 2020 19:19 (three months ago) link

Yes, it's great to see him in good spirits and fine form. I think his voice is getting better w/ age. His voice always needed a little extra grit. I'm also enjoying his daughter's contributions; her voice is wonderful on Radum Calls.

afriendlypioneer, Monday, 27 April 2020 16:47 (three months ago) link

Love him. I don't know if any others made the connection between their musics over the decades, but this is the closest to imagining having my hero Simon Jeffes from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra doing a home concert for free.

My wet dream would be Sean producing a new David Sylvian album.

Max Florian, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 12:39 (three months ago) link

As mentioned upthread, he also produced the new Marker Starling LP, which is out now and v nice.

Deverly (Bangelo), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 17:09 (three months ago) link

two weeks pass...

I completely missed up until now that the video in tylerw’s tweet is different to the one posted on 20 April. Just caught up with the former - so good, and brings back good memories of the Café Oto gig last year.

There was also short essay by Sean published on the Drag City website on the same day. Worth a read:

Jeff W, Friday, 15 May 2020 18:45 (two months ago) link

I've loved O'Hagan's music for a long time. In fact, it was one of two reasons why I launched a website around his music

weirwrite, Saturday, 23 May 2020 06:46 (two months ago) link


buzza, Saturday, 23 May 2020 07:10 (two months ago) link

Message on Bandcamp: “Small something special coming to you on June 18th. Stay tuned to Drag City”

Jeff W, Wednesday, 3 June 2020 18:01 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

The lockdown-era return of wildlife to the towns looked foreboding, with images of our streets deserted but for the odd roaming animals - but weren't cities built for everyone? Sean O' Hagan and his daughter Livvy have teamed up to sing of this ecstatic, divisive and unexpected homecoming, with squelching, modern r'n'b beats to boost the much needed energies in our stagnated communities today. Mixed by modern art-pop wunderkind Fryars, "The Wild Are Welcome" introduces a futuristic side of O'Hagan's always inventive songcraft. Sean writes:

"This April, the animals were coming back to the cities. I love our wild in London, the foxes and badgers - but then sheep, deer and goats started to stray back into the edges of urbanity, in Essex and on the fringes of Swansea and Edinburgh. So I imagined the conversations the animals were having as they acclimatized to the new norm. And of course it flipped the status for the rest of us not in captivity, as we stared out at the wild from our lockdown. As much as I have enjoyed the musical landscape that I have explored for 30 years, I want to creep beyond it. I can still drop the chords as I always have but I am enamored with the 2020 RnB experience and here I have found new tools to put records together. Livvy keeps me informed and I increasingly run stuff by her, so when the idea of this tune emerged, I wanted a female vocal around which to hang an approximated vocal running through bit crushing and transformers to get the 'sound'. The sounds of Sly's Riot mixed with these vital new expressions. This is where I am at in 2020: SEAN SYLVESTER DRAKE 61."

afriendlypioneer, Thursday, 18 June 2020 16:52 (one month ago) link

Nothing to add to Sean’s own description! Hard to judge from just one song but yeah more in this vein would not I think be unwelcome.

Jeff W, Thursday, 18 June 2020 18:19 (one month ago) link

A really great interview with @High_Llamas Sean O'Hagan on his creative process:

— Paul McDermott (@learnandsing) June 18, 2020

Jeff W, Thursday, 18 June 2020 18:40 (one month ago) link

For an act that gets a lot of "every record sounds the same," he sure releases quite an eclectic array of music. I'm addicted to the new song. His daughter's got a lovely voice. She's great on Radum Calls as well.

afriendlypioneer, Monday, 22 June 2020 15:58 (one month ago) link

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