Album Reviews

Lay Llamas – Ostro

(Rocket) UK release date: 26 May 2014

Lay Llamas - OstroIt is no surprise to find that Lay Llamas and Goat both found a home on Rocket Recordings. Both bands occupy a similar kind of sonic headspace, that of the psychedelic electric shaman, and both appear to be in thrall to the charms of a certain style of mammal. Perhaps the only shock is that Rocket has yet to sign a band called the Vibrant Camelids or the Electric Alpaca Society, such is their propensity for such creatures.

There are strong feelings of spirituality and place that run throughout Ostro, which, given the circumstances surrounding the recording the album is understandable. Recorded by a temple dating back to the 6th Century BC, it’s an album that has the echoes of the ages reverberating at its very core.

The title Ostro refers to a Mediterranean wind that blows from Africa towards Sicily (the Llamas’ home) and was gleaned apparently from a dream Nicola Giunta (one half of the Lay Llamas) had and a fisherman from his Greek hometown of Selinute. This confusion between dreamlike states and consciousness is fully exploited by the album as it seeks to serve as an aid for meditation and waking realisation.

There is a mystical element to the album which is usually conjured up during passages of hypnotic repetition, the African influence makes itself felt in subtle cadences and flourishes that anyone familiar with the desert toasted hooks of Tinariwen would instantly recognise. It is most certainly there in the tones of opening track Ancient People Of The Stars, which is all dusty ambiance, seething atmospherics and, most importantly an invitation to dance beneath the wonder of the cosmos. That it starts off with the delicate tinkle of wind chimes is almost certainly no coincidence.

We Are You sets off in a slightly different direction. There’s still a sense of nomadic breeze at play, but with a bass line borrowed from Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer there’s a deep seated funk pulse driving it along. Electronic noises cut in and out of the mix, like garbled satellite transmissions, but it’s when it gets to the tribal chorus of unity with the chanted “we are you!” it becomes truly magical (and not unlike Lo Fi Allstars remixing Fela Kuti).

The Lay Llamas follows, and is something of a short sharp shock. It still adheres to the repetitive nature of what came before, but delivers it in a curious mix of home made disco-punk (drum machine and single note keyboards) and gurgled vocals. Desert Of Lost Souls returns to more expansive territory, propelled by a relentless bass pulse. The percussion rattles and clunks with the kind of threat one might expect from a sidewinder with a woodblock. Eventually it sets the coordinates for the heart of the sun and disappears in an haze of prog-rock scene-setting. Glorious.

Archaic Revival spends the first couple of minutes sounding like a pair of Clangers locked in an echo chamber. It’s only when it rumbles into life with a robotic bass and drum loop that things become a little clearer, but even then there’s a narcotic haze surrounding things, made all the more evident by the reverb swamped vocals which give the whole thing an epically stoned edge. Something Wrong continues that stoned vibe, by borrowing a few chops from OM and throwing an smidgen of funk into the mix.

Just when things couldn’t get any more baked, along comes In Search Of Plants which mixes flute solos with a weighty dub bassline. When the line “we are going to a place I know well” is delivered in a wonderful drawl, it’s impossible not to follow, particular with the following promise of “monkey business, out of control”. Certainly there’s something mystical at work here, but, as with the rest of the album, the real fun is to be found when fully immersed in these hypnotic grooves.

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Lay Llamas – Ostro