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: I first met Thomas Van Cottom maybe nine years ago. He had an enigmatic and wonderfully unique band with Aurélie Muller called Soy Un Caballo. The couple from Bruxelles worked with a small close circle of musicians from the city to create a European song form which danced between Françoise Hardy and an American highway. I was asked along with my old friend Charlie Francis to help produce their debut and, as it turned out, only record. Thomas’ idiosyncratic open-tuned writing and Aurélie’s sublime voice and bass playing combined to create something timeless.
Eight years on, Thomas and I teamed up again. After a break from music, Thomas came back with a manifesto of creativity. Thomas calls it Cabane music. Cabane is a collaboration of six or seven musicians from Belgium, England and the U.S. Thomas writes the songs, which require only two instruments plus strings and voices. So far, Bonnie Prince Billy, Kate Stables (This Is The Kit), Caroline Gabard (Boy And The Echo Choir) and I have joined Thomas on this venture. Cabane is music, photography, film making and seeks to draw on other creative activity on future projects. When I asked Thomas what he was trying to achieve with Cabane, he said he wanted to bring people together, almost beyond the structure of industry, more as a social experiment in creating new work.