The High Llamas The Beet, Maize And Corn on LP
Welcome to the world of The High Llamas circa 2003. Beet, Maize & Corn finds them three years on from their previous album Buzzle Bee, and a world away from not just that former album, but almost every other record they've produced. Don't worry – the signature melodies, harmonic structures and sweetly flowing beauty of Highest Llama Sean O'Hagan's style are very much in evidence on Beet, Maize & Corn however, in a radical rethinking of songwriting and arrangement, they are presented in a starkly changed manner.
Eschewing electronics in favor of an organic sound, dropping drums down in the mix and emphasizing the acoustics of stringed instruments, Beet, Maize & Corn was an original new statement from a songwriter who had been pitching his tunes into the ring for over a decade. If that sounds like a daunting task, it is easily done here – simply a matter of changing focus, drawing water from different wells, reaching a bit deeper.
And thus, in these early years of the 21st century, The High Llamas find themselves wandering through the early years of the 20th century. They embrace American pop writers (like Gershwin and Cole Porter), French and British impressionists (Ravel, Debussy and Delius, anyone?) and even a bit of Kurt Weill. With such improbable musical bunkmates, it should surprise no-one that characters from small town 1950s America have stepped into the mix as well ie The Platters, Bobby Darin, The Flamingos, Frankie Avalon and others from the dusty road of hits.
This is a travelogue of the thought process. When you sit down and listen to Beet, Maize & Corn, you're not going to hear these influences and inspirations in an overt fashion. What you will hear is a fresh breeze from The High Llamas. If you still love a tune and a chord change, something that makes you smile, then you've got plenty reason to rejoice even over a decade later.