Whilst lamenting the new direction of The High Llamas on a regular cycle around his particular corner of South-East London, Sean O’Hagan decided to give the next album a narrative structure. Because of this, he also decided that the story within the songs must be performed as a play first. And that’s exactly what happened. Here Come The Rattling Trees has been performed in several places in London throughout 2014 and now the album, which is full of typically intelligent, soft and melodic moments, is available for you to enjoy. Lyrically, it has a story arc that focuses on Amy. Amy meets several characters who, in turn, tell their own story. CD and LP on Drag City.
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We must be careful not to be too inconsequential. One of the beauties of the High Llamas recent music is that it drifts as happily as a butterfly on a summers day but still has melodies to disarm. Their previous album ‘Talahomi Way’ was a masterclass in not saying very much with incredible panache and magical arrangements. Following that wonderful work, High Llamas have changed tack slightly and have written an album that made for the theatre and not as your standard rock record. The play revolves around characters found in leader Sean O' Hagan’s home place of Peckham and this album has the disjointed air of soundtrack work.
First up there’s barely a drum kit in sight - just light percussion - this is a more stripped back and less lush High Llamas without the string and horn work that is so integral to their sound. Many songs are short instrumental vignettes of the sort you hear as the backing music to the Beach Boys ‘Mt Vernon and Fairway’. Harpsichords and vibraphones abound and the pace is as slow as a dog wallowing in the afternoon sun. O' Hagan’s vocals appear from time to time most noticeably on the title track, the gorgeous ‘Bramble Black’ and on the lovely reprise of ’Mona’s Song’.
As always with High Llamas the music is gorgeous but I feel that there is even less oomph about them and as much as I love them one thing High Llamas sometimes require is a bit of extra oomph. Like the Beach Boys ‘Friends’, the overall mood of insouciant peace can be intoxicating but I miss the stellar, structured songwriting of yore.
I’ll forgive High Llamas this pleasant diversion though if I can have them back full fat on their next record.
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- Here Come The Rattling Trees by The High Llamas
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