Friday, 22 February 2013

This is Pop - Show 003 - February 22nd 2013 - The High Llamas (Sean O'Hagan)

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The High Llamas are a London-based musical group, formed by Irish guitarist and songwriter Sean O'Hagan after the demise of his group Microdisney. Their output showed influences including pre-1950s American pop and folk, Brazilian, jazz and bossa nova, film composers of the 1960s, and 1990s Europeans electronic music. O'Hagans work most frequently included references to Brian Wilson's psychedelic period and / or kitsch lounge revival. Although O'Hagan sometimes expresses discomfort at reviewers' claims of derivative works, he generally wears his influences on his sleeve, having named several songs after the artists that inspired them. The Beach Boys influence on O'Hagan is most obvious on the expansive, cinematic 1996 album Hawaii, a musical spaghetti western on themes of tourism and colonialism. It blended elements of the Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds', 'Smile', and 'Wild Honey' such that O'Hagan was recommended by Bruce Johnston (Beach Boys) to produce a Beach Boys comeback LP that had the backing of Virgin honcho Richard Branson in the mid 90's. Branson wanted to sign the Beach Boys (with a post Dr. Landy, Brian Wilson in toe) and attempt to revist their heyday from '64 to '67.

The High Llamas' own musical arrangements vary according to album, but marimbas, nylon-string guitars, and hevil reverbed pouding tack pianos are often featured, For a period in the late 1990s, O'Hagan's work was often marked by distinctive vintage synthesizer "gurgling" or "bouncing" effects, first explored and developedin 'Turn-On', his experimental collaboration record with members of Stereolab. 

The High Llamas infrequently tour and only release an album every few years, Since the group was dropped by V2 Records they have made it clear that their records are personal projects that do not support them financially, O'Hagan frequently does arranging and production work for artists like Doves, Super Furry Animals, Sondre Lerche among others. The High Llamas work for V2 is anthologized on the compilation 'Retrospective, Rarities and Instrumentals, and they continue to record for Duophonic Records (UK) and Drag City (US). Their critically acclaimed latest album 'Talahomi Way' was released in April 2011.

Sean's thoughts on Radiohead...
"I don't believe them (Radiohead) for a second. I'm not vehemently down on them, as I am say Oasis, but I hate the way that that record ( O.K. Computer ) is supposed to be the greatest record of all time and so radical. I don't think there's anything radical about what they do. They're careful, well-honed cliches. The perfect marketing tool and I think those things need to be exposed. I mean I hate to sound so bitchy about it, but I think it's incumbent upon people to make that point".