Album Reviews

Laroca – Friends In Far Away Places

(Just Music) UK release date: 1 May 2006

Now, is it a matter of pronunciation or what? La Roca? The rockers? Or should it be (chews garlic, hawks spit into a handily placed spittoon) ‘Laroca (hombre)’?

Either way Rob Pollard and Olly Wakeford are the duo responsible for serving up such a sly piece of hypnotic and addictive tuneage. Chilled, groove-laden, cinematic, yet accessible, world music without being ‘beardy’, like a more considered Basement Jaxx without the frantic style-dropping. No wonder Laroca were invited to play at the Big Chill Festival long before they even signed to Just Music.

La Doulier Exquise starts like a music transmission beamed straight from Planet Chill, as strings massage your aching cranium, while sonic bleeps offer the steady pulse of a life machine having a really BIG sigh.

Looking Like Lions is a skewed piece of Eastern chill-hop (new genre anyone?) like the cinematic global groovebeats of the much-compared Lemon Jelly, Thievery Corporation and even Groove Armada.

Generalife sounds like some spy thriller soundtrack that quickly segues into a trip-hop homage from a forgotten era. Plage Lodo wouldn’t stand out from any Air or Zero 7 fare in its swishing flutes and hypnotic downtempo beats. It is a world of high colour saturated Super 8 videos of impossibly beautiful people ‘chilling’ and being ‘spontaneous’ on a beach while you wonder what they do for day jobs to make them so wacky.

It only goes awry when vocals come into the mix as on the punningly titled What’s Odd About Chess, where the lame Mantmast rambles aimlessly above a perfectly good groove to its detriment. Similarly Latin falls into a lost amble of a tune that chugs along prettily enough with no substance or semblance of a tune that is memorable. Unfortunately the album continues in this vein with The Daa Daa Shuffle which sounds like a poor man’s Mr Scruff in its jazz shufflings before Sinbad restores the balance with a neat instrumental breakbeat that eases along like a forgotten road movie soundtrack.

Theme Flamboyant returns to th world music flamenco stylings of earlier and builds into a cod spaghetti western minus the alphabetti spaghetti, while the final coda of Pastoral (doing exactly what you’d expect the title to do) and the blessed out vibe of All Jam No Bread summoning the ghosts of The Beloved means a welcome return to earth after the dilly-dallying inbetween.

After an auspicious start things quickly degenerate into a second rate chill-out wannabe album that will have you scurrying for the genuine article. “A little less conversation a little more action?” Damn right!

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Laroca – Friends In Far Away Places