The High Llamas

Hey Panda

Drag City • 2024

Hello from one animal to another. The High Llamas are still around, as they prove with this missive to a panda after an eight-year hiatus. This time around, Sean O’Hagan’s band has opted for a kind of psychedelic R&B miniature. O’Hagan’s voice is supported by AI: he and his guest singers are occasionally styled with Auto-Tune. The friendly, easy-listening approach remains a constant, but can, as in »Fall Off the Mountain«, temporarily give way to a more accentuated beat, including a rap by guest artist Rae Morris. The overall situation remains calm but always fluid, ready to change direction at a moment’s notice. Like on »How the Best Was Won«, which features Bonnie ›Prince‹ Billy, also with automatic pitch correction. And then there are the familiar High Llamas moments, eccentrically gentle and slightly wistful catchy tunes like »The Grade«. It sounds wonderful, not least thanks to the unobtrusive use of the Fender Rhodes. If you are not put off by the manipulated vocals, you should still give it a chance. The High Llamas are not famous for their mixture of folk, bossa and electronica without a reason. They know how to combine things that don’t necessarily belong together in such a way that you’ll never want them to be separate again.