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The High Llamas

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The High Llamas are a London-based musical project created by Irish-English 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 Marcus Holdaway and drummer Rob Allum.

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 mixed Beach Boys comeback LP.

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