It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.
O’Hagan: Some time ago, 1994 or 1995, Tim Gane, Andy Ramsay and I got together with engineer Fulton Dingley in Blackwing Studios in Blackfriars to make a record which had no stated intention or sound. The idea was that no ideas were to be brought into the studio. Everything had to originate in the room with the four participants facing each other and approval had to be unanimous. It was funny and nicely odd, and sort of like a committee gathering of the Workers Revolutionary Party, circa 1974. There were plenty of rules. A bass sound could not be generated from an instrument that already been used on that track. No pure electronic tracks and no purely organic tracks. The whole project was not allowed to exceed the appointed record time, five days. No consecutive speeds. No consecutive keys. Rules and regulations. The record was released by Drag City, and we called it Turn On. Actually, the whole exercise was created to break our recording habits in our respective bands, Stereolab and the High Llamas.
We are all back in the studio in Berlin. Are we making a Turn On record? Maybe. We will let you know in a few months. Meanwhile, where did I put that rule book.