Get this crazy baby off my head!


The High Llamas

The High Llamas - Snowbug - 1999 - V2

Another example of The High Llamas' unique blend of strong tunes and sophisticated presentation. If yo are not aware of the connection, the CD features vocal appearances by Laetitia and Mary of Stereolab coupled with production and guest vibes from John McEntire. The conservative production on this album makes it charming but not overbearing. There's nobody showing off here, just some quality sounds. It's quite heavy on the 60s TV lounge theme, and light on the beat, and the album makes for a great Sunday drive, and this possibly flippant remark does not detract from the quality of this album. Check out The High Llamas excellent 2007 "Can Cladders" album @

Can Cladders


1. Bach Ze
2. Harpers Romo
3. Hoops Hooley
4. Cookie Bay
5. Triads
6. The American Scene
7. Go To Montecito
8. Janet Jangle
9. Amin
10. Daltons Star
11. Cotton To The Bell
12. Green Coaster
13. Cut The Dummy Loose


Sean O'Hagan -vocals, guitars, keyboards
John Fell -bass
Rob Allum -drums
Marcus Holdaway -various instruments


Snowbug is warmer and more substantial than you might expect from an outfit that called its last album Cold and Bouncy. Since their seminal Gideon Gaye, Sean O'Hagan's High Llamas have flaunted a quirky Beach Boys fetish that Brian Wilson cultists may appreciate but that has rendered much of the band's material too precious and stylized. Snowbug, however, sounds less like the bastard son of Pet Sounds and more like a touchy-feely cousin of Stereolab's 1997 album Dots and Loops (to which O'Hagan contributed instrumental arrangements). O'Hagan seems intent less on paying tribute to Brian Wilson's mad genius than on establishing his own voice as an obsessive pop savant. More than ever, he's trusting his own instincts, especially on the buoyant, catchy "Cookie Bay," where sophisticated vocal harmonies are supported by a strange brew of plucked banjos, backward cymbal crashes, and synthetic marimbas. The disc's reliance on the electro-organic sound of analog synths gives each song a similar retro-futurist feel, but it's one that belongs to O'Hagan, not to the past. © Jared White, http://weeklywire.com/ww/12-20-99/boston_music_clips.html ( Boston Phoenix CD Reviews)

On their fifth full-length recording, the High Llamas have overcome their somewhat derivative nature and created a well-balanced and original excursion into avant-garde pop music. While band leader Sean O'Hagan's affiliation with Stereolab is reflected in his work, the melodic influences of Brian Wilson's Beach Boys, Ennio Morricone, French pop, and German electronica have all been sublimated in service of the song. Mixing conventional rock instrumentation with modern technology and the use of glockenspiels and xylophones, the band's sound is seductively textured and quietly complex. Although O'Hagan's singing isn't robust, his distinctive voice suits these quirky performances. With Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen lending some beautiful harmonies and Tortoise's John McEntire serving as sound engineer, Snowbug is a compelling group effort that deserves to be heard. © Mitch Myers (MUSIC CITY : The first collaborative Music Database), www.music-city.org/The-High-Llamas/Snowbug-3645/)

Did you ever hear music that completely transforms your sense of time and space transporting you back to what resembles either time spent in the womb or instead a long forgotten drug induced out of body experience? No? Oh...Snowbug by The High Llamas has that sort of effect. This is very different music. It is completely magical, lushly mellow, but eerily familiar in a very deep, spiritual way. Listening to this album reminds me of Mel Gibson's character in the movie conspiracy theory. Throughout the movie Gibson is haunted by these very fuzzy flashbacks to something that he knows nothing about. These visions seem so familiar to him yet he can't make sense of them. In case you hadn't seen the movie I won't ruin it by saying any more. Snowbug has a similar kind of effect on me but not in the unpleasant way that Gibson's character experiences it. For me they are very vague recollections of moments of childhood. I remember sitting in the backseat of our '69 Lincoln traveling along the belt parkway, my young parents in the front, and the associations "Windy" on the radio. This music throws me back to that era. It is psychedelic and nostalgic without being contrived. If you haven't already figured it out I absolutely love this music. I think it is the most interesting and satisfying CD I've had the pleasure of adding to my collection in a very long time.
This music is about atmosphere but it is more than just aural wallpaper. Snowbug is an album, which defies classification. It's some sort of retro- futuristic easy- listening lounge music, except it's very... strange. This sonic delight is a masterpiece of modern production. Throughout the listener is caressed with the deep rich sounds of strings, marimbas, brass, and electronics while the angelic timbres of flute, banjo, nylon guitar, glockenspiel, and the beautiful vocals of Latetia Saidler of the similarly quirky Stereolab. All of this has the potential to evolve into a cloudy harmonic bisque but alas there are never two timbres occupying the same harmonic frequency at the same time resulting in a crystal clear recording with the delicate harmonics slicing their way through the lush atmospheres below while never overstepping the boundaries so effectively introduced by the production team.
Fans of the group Stereolab will find the confines of Snowbug to be warm and hospitable. The sounds are similar but while Stereolab strives for the upbeat and rhythmically diverse, the high llamas continually seek to melodically yet sedately pay homage to composers of the past. The album's first track, "Bach Ze," speaks for both the band's exacting nature and its almost quaint futuristic drive. The chorus -- "From moon to Mars the sliders slip/But now we rarely make the trip" -- rises over whispered acoustic guitar, stately strings and electronic teasers, mourning a musical and verbal image of a '60s-era studio producer poring over his mixing board. The band's backward gaze becomes a bit less explicit as it traipses along -- as the lyrics to "Harpers Romo" tell it, "Shutters come down, safety inside/Exile at home, this is more than just a place where we hide" -- but a eulogistic glance at the past is never too far from view.
"Snowbug," like all of the Llamas' work, is mostly a meditation on a small handful of closely related melodic themes. Those melodies are always stunning, though, as crafted by a band graced with the hands of musicians and the ears of producers. The songs are rich with sounds of instruments and styles ranging from French pop, Brazilian rhythms, acoustic instrumentation, wah-wah pedals, nylon guitars, and vibraphone. The Llamas are hip to the current trend in the recording industry of integrating the live studio in lieu of a reliance on studio gadgetry. The live element brightens up the recording as a whole, with an abundance of evidence on such songs as "Green Coaster" and "Cookie Bay" (the latter featuring vocals from Latetia and Mary).
Snowbug is a masterpiece of adult contemporary pop. The dreamy soundscapes coupled with the catchy melodic musings and intricate arrangements is toothsome and satisfying. The production is a tour de force. If you own a high quality audio system treat it to Snowbug. The sophisticated craftsmanship will overwhelm your musical senses and leave you humming for weeks to come. © Anonymous, on 2001-04-30, (MUSIC CITY : The first collaborative Music Database), www.music-city.org/The-High-Llamas/Snowbug-3645/)

You won't find a more relaxing, or a more intriguing album than this one. This is where the High Lamas peaked -- even better than Cold and Bouncy and far better than the disappointing Buzzle Bee that followed. It's cool... it's cute. Best in summer perhaps. I listen to it all the time. My 9-year old daughter loves it too, but my 12-year-old son hates it. He's into Aerosmith and the like... © Anonymous, on 2001-09-01, (MUSIC CITY : The first collaborative Music Database), www.music-city.org/The-High-Llamas/Snowbug-3645/)

As an odd signature of recognition, to know Stereolab is to know the High Llamas. Fact is, since Sean O'Hagan (the main man behind the High Llamas) has been working more and more with Stereolab, the two bands' sounds have come ever closer. The key difference between the two groups, however, lies in the pace of the songs. Stereolab clearly aims for an upbeat, pop-retro blend while the High Llamas continually seek to melodically yet more sedately pay homage to composers of the past. (Also, with his own records, O'Hagan has the opportunity to exercise his talent with lyric and vocal duties.)
While the Llamas last record, Cold and Bouncy, seemed more of a programming trick, Snowbug, the fifth record since the group's 1991 inception, sets itself apart by further integrating the live studio. The band has picked up on a sort of backward trend currently on the agenda of many established music makers, that of reversing the reliance on studio machinery. The difference is noted in fewer electronic loops and dissonant passages. The live element brightens up the recording as a whole, with an abundance of evidence on such songs as "Green Coaster" and "Cookie Bay" (the latter featuring vocals from Stereolab's Laetitia and Mary).
Oddly, by the time the record is finished, Snowbug seems to exist on two separate planes: As a Stereolab adjunct project, but also, with its intricate arrangements and lesser reliance on programmed effects, it's perhaps more properly compared to the work of Burt Bacharach.
Either way, you've got a record that contains the proper combination of hailed retro and kitschy current pop sounds to remain interesting well into the future. © Liz Copeland, © 2008, Metro Times, Inc.
As his pals in Stereolab fit into a niche as tenured avant-pop radicals, the resident keyboards, gizmos, and arrangement wiz Sean O'Hagan continues to find fresh musical purchase in his remarkably sweet, experimentally smart light-pop outfit, the High Llamas. Reaching beyond alt-pop's classic canon to pull from kitschy influences like Martin Denny's exotica and Bacharach/David's expertly arranged pop, and mixing them up with quirky compositional principals, post-Moog electronics, and the occasional slice of Kraut-funk, his music is at once elevating, frustrating, and always fascinating. If 1998's COLD AND BOUNCY lived up to its title a little to stolidly, the less chilly SNOWBUG flows and flutters with the sweetness and slight of the Llamas' Brian Wilson-influenced 1997 release HAWAII. O'Hagan's vocals aren't going to co-opt Dionne Warwick's legacy any time soon, but he does his forebears proud on mini-symphonies like the bongo-led butterball "Harper's Romo," the plucky "Triads," and the florid fiesta "Go to Montecino." Stereolab singers Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen brighten the sonic palette on the watery "The American Scene," Sadier's French accent sounding almost stern in this willfully escapist context. Yet, while SNOWBUG is fervidly fluffy, it's never so lubricated that it slips through your fingers. In short, it'll take you higher. © Jon Dolan, Barnes & Noble, © 1997-2008 Barnesandnoble.com llc

BIO (Wikipedia)

High Llamas is a London-based musical project created by Irish guitarist and songwriter Sean O'Hagan after the demise of his group Microdisney. Although he writes and arranges the music and frequently uses the High Llamas moniker for his own personal musical efforts (e.g. remixes), the High Llamas are nominally a group, which usually includes Microdisney bassist Jon Fell and a rotating cast of others including keyboardist and cellist Marcus Holdaway, percussionist Dominic Murcott and drummer Rob Allum. They derived their name from a character played by Michael Nesmith in the Monkees. Although the High Llamas' output (including the eponymous debut album, technically credited to "Sean O'Hagan") shows influences including pre-1950s American pop and folk, Brazilian jazz and bossa nova, film composers of the 1960s, and 1990s European electronic music, criticism of O'Hagan's work most frequently includes 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, even naming several more recent songs after the composers and pop musicians who most inspired that particular track. (Examples: "Bach Ze", "Pat Mingus", "Shuggie Todd.") 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 Pet Sounds, Smile and Wild Honey so expertly that O'Hagan was even recommended by Bruce Johnston to produce an eventually nixed Beach Boys comeback LP. The High Llamas' own musical arrangements vary according to album, but marimbas, nylon-string guitars, and heavily reverbed pounding 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 developed in Turn-On, his experimental collaboration record with members of Stereolab. The High Llamas' albums are also notable for frequent guest appearances by members of that band, with whom O'Hagan once played guitar, and for whom he often contributes string and horn arrangements. 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 The Boo Radleys, Doves, Super Furry Animals and Sondre Lerche, and percussionist Allum has worked with Turin Brakes. Their 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).