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Dublin Vicar St.

This fuzzy, feelgood performance should provide enough insulation to get us through another harsh winter...

It's not an uncommon opinion that The High Llamas' records should include footnotes on the evolution of '60s Brazilian music or a step-by-step guide to the great proto-electronicists or a thesis on the sonic parallels between Brian Wilson and Jorge Benn. They call it 'pop', but it's often proved all too arcane for the 4/4 layman. But for those with a lot of patience, not to mention a kick-ass set of speakers, the Llamas' dense, recontextualised retro sound is second to none.



So here we are, some five or six albums down the line, back in the country where Sean O'Hagan apprenticed his art with '80s pop satirists Microdisney and, in his own words, "It feels good to be back." The six-strong Llamas outfit fix themselves behind an impressive pile-up of analogue boxes and boards, beneath a screen of cleverly meandering pop-art images. With the demeanour of a group of 30-something jumpers'n'jeans musos, they have no intention of passing themselves off as hip, over-excited Moog bruisers with jump-out hooks and knock-out riffs.



No, the Llamas are very much internally engrossed in each member's individual role in a most intricate sound. O'Hagan even apologises for his lack of funny stories (by way of a funny story) and nervously figures out how he'll play guitar, doodle with his keys and pull of those three-part harmonies all at the same time. Of course, the mere sight of Rob Allum bent over his immense xylophone contraption with no less than four mallets dancing over the keys at the same time, is a great spectacle in itself.



Furthermore, for seasoned Llama aficionados, tonight is a career-spanning treat with only a handful of concessions to their brand new - and thoroughly ace - 'Buzzle Bee' album, although 'Pat Mingus' is a joyously relaxed slice of spacey pop flotsam. Tonight they run through about three selections from 1996's sun-kissed 'Hawaii' set, and the same again from '98's 'Cold & Bouncy' including 'The Sun Beats Down', which sends huge, irresistibly radiant smile vibes over the assembled Vicar St. throng. And then there's at least four moments from last year's 'Snowbug', such as the classy 'Janet Jangle' and the opening golden delicious 'Bach Ze'.



But even if the set draws less from 'Buzzle Bee' than its three predecessors, the overall effect more cohesively reflects that record. The string arrangements of Llamas' yore are replaced with a strong emphasis on sliding guitars, an array of burping, bastardised new sounds from organs wired through effects pedal, stretched-out echo-chamber rhythms (there's even a touch of the King Tubbys tonight) and the ever-present delight of Allum's tinkling xylophone. Towards the end, they dig deeper again, pulling out 'Track Goes By' from '94's '70s-pop infused 'Gideon Gaye' album.



Sure, if you'd randomly wandered in off the street, tonight would be a puzzling experience. But for those who've allowed O'Hagan's Llamas to gracefully reveal their hidden pleasures over time, this fuzzy, feelgood performance should provide enough insulation to get us through another harsh winter.

Leagues O'Toole

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