Say Psych: Album Review: Lay Llamas – Thuban

Four years after the release of debut Østro, Lay Llamas return with their second offering Thuban, released on Rocket Recordings. Dwelling in the night sky of the Northern hemisphere, Thuban (named after the Arabic for snake also known as Alpha Draconis, and sometimes as the ‘dragon’s tail’) was the star closest to the North Pole from the fourth to the second millennium BC.

The album has been characterised as much by forward motion as cosmic drift and follows a number of smaller releases on labels such as Backwards, 4 Zero and ArteTetra. With a string of stunning live performances, notably supporting Goat at London’s Roundhouse and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. Yet following the departure of vocalist Gioele  Valenti, Thuban  is very much  Nicola Giunt’s  brainchild,  involving  as  many  of  twelve  different  musicians  with  him  writing  lyrics,  singing,  producing,  mixing  and  recording  at  his home. It utilises new instruments from marimba to sax to kalimba to pilot this craft to dimensions unknown. The result has been a step beyond the kraut-damaged psychedelic mantras of Østro into a realm seemingly without boundaries, one in which a pan-global fascination with rhythmic hypnosis and an unquenchable experimental zeal manifests hermetically-aligned revelations aplenty.

Thuban talks about ancient sea travels, cultures and rites, but also about travellers from all ages. Travellers that are still looking for their Thuban, for their polar star to reach a safe place to live with their family.” Talking of the creative process, Giunt says “Everything around us is transforming, always! You know, I’m not a proper songwriter, I consider myself a sound crafter. An experimental alchemist of sounds and visions. And sometimes I start with an idea and finish with something really different”.

Opening with ‘Eye-Chest People’s Dance Ritual’, an ethereal, rhythmic pulsating track that’s an easy going introduction. ‘Holy Worms’ is an instantly catchy track that features all the elements you would want from a Lay Llamas track; atonal percussion, edgy effected lyrics and intoxicating riffs that will entrance. For those unfamiliar with the band, in a nutshell, this is who they are. ‘Silver Sun’ has a jazzier countenance due to its sax elements and the fast paced vocals leave you breathless and if that wasn’t enough all this is overlaid with synth effects and effected guitar riffs.

‘Cults and Rites from the Black Cliff’ features members of Clinic and will sound familiar to any fans of the band, it being similar musically to ‘We Are You’ from Østro. The track exudes a darker feel from its predecessors and the repetition channels krautrock vibes throughout. ‘Altair’ is a tropicalia serenade which features the instantly recognisable vocals of label mates Goat. ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ features the spoken word contributions of Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, it’s dark tone an evocative words go hand in hand with the motorik drum beat and synth melody. ‘Chronicles from the Fourth Planet’ is very true to the title’s ethos, inspiring space soundscapes and transcending realities. Concluding ‘Coffins on the Tree, A Black Braid on Our Way to Home’ is the perfect end to the journey, encompassing elements of all that has gone before.


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