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Laroca - Friends In Far Away Places

Laroca, Friends In Far Away Places

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE signature tune from Laroca – aka Rob Pollard and Olly Wakeford – is a mightily impressive collection of beats, Eastern-influenced vocals and flutes that effectively encapsulate the chilled out cinematic sound you can expect from the duo.

It’s called Looking Like Lions and is the unquestionable highlight of the debut album, Friends in Far Away Places.

As good as the remainder of that album is, however, it just cannot scale the same heights.

Looking Like Lions is the sort of track that iPods were made for. An easy to extract recording that can be added to the favourites selection of any personal list.

That’s not to say that the rest of the LP isn’t without merit; merely that listeners are spoiled a little too early.

Laroca describe themselves as cinematic groove merchants. They have already won many admirers from performances at festivals such as the Big Chill.

And they continue to be inspired by the likes of Bonobo, Quantin, Lemon Jelly and Thievery Corporation.

Their sound is funky yet symphonic, soulful yet layered and exotic, while their influences draw from Sufi and Afro-Beat to flamenco and Eastern European gypsy.

The Bonobo comparison is particularly effective during Generalife, another smart selection of beats and flutes relayed in soothing fashion that hints at an Eastern European flavour.

Plage Lodo, meanwhile, was inspired by a trip to Corsica and features the sort of laidback, muted beats and soothing flute that might make Air jealous.

There’s some funky rapping from MC Mantmast on What’s Odd About Chess which marks something of a departure from the chillout sound and which begins the album’s journey towards a more upbeat, less chilled out style.

Latin, for instance, combines a more urgent beat with some soulful female vocals and stabs of flamenco guitar that lend it a far more mainstream feel that’s not quite as effective.

While The Daa Daa Shuffle continues to up the energy levels with some funky stabs of hammond organ and more shuffling beats intermingling with the flutes.

It’s good but nowhere near as effective as the earlier stuff on the album.

Fortunately, tracks like Theme Flamboyant, with its epic cinematic overtones, and the Lemon Jelly-inspired All Jam No Bread help bring the album to a more satisfying close, proving that Laroca work best when keeping things chilled.

Friends In Far Away Places is therefore a good chillout album that delivers some real highs. It’s certainly worthy of plenty of attention.

Track listing:

  1. La Douleur Exquise
  2. Looking Like Lions
  3. Generalife
  4. Plage Lodo
  5. What’s Odd About Chess-Feat. Mantmast
  6. Latin
  7. The Daa Daa Shuffle
  8. Sinbad
  9. Theme Flamboyant
  10. Pastoral
  11. All Jam No Bread