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The sexy librarian, the saturnine professor inviting sweet young things in for Madeira, the nuclear physicist with the 'come up and see my warhead' smile...

The sexy librarian, the saturnine professor inviting sweet young things in for Madeira, the nuclear physicist with the 'come up and see my warhead' smile - there's no reason why academic pop should be wrapped in dust jackets and cardigans. Yet while Stereolab are no strangers to the groove thing and most forward-thinking electronica has a latent kink, The High Llamas' meticulous research extrapolates musical magic into fastidious graphs.



Through their now-traditional Brian Wilson melodies there comes a gentle electronic chuckle - Tortoise's John McEntire engineered - yet it's distinctly less than the precise algebraic equation of its parts. The dippy Pierre Cardin burbling of 'Janet Jangle' and 'Go To Montecito' are on the nails-on-blackboard side of irritating, and while the loveliest songs - the sun-dancing 'Bach Ze', 'Cut The Dummy Loose' - lark prettily about on a bicycle with Robert Redford, there's not a flicker of emotional static.



It would be just as edifying looking at some tapestry, maybe a neatly thrown pot. And if you believe that any creative human endeavour performed well is a beautiful thing, then listen to Sean O'Hagan sighing, "This machine sounds like a song", on 'Amin'. Not so much a band as a generator, it's time The High Llamas threw a spanner in their works. Or else threw in this particular towel.
5 / 10

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