Laroca Valley of the Bears Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

An album doubtless more fun to perform than to hear.

Keira Burgess 2009

Laroca's Olly Wakeford and Rob Pollard both hail from earnest musical beginnings. Their debut album Friends In Far Away Places was born after years spent studying music, playing in bands and messing with loops in a ''classic bedroom set up''. Despite claims to the contrary, this, the follow up, sounds similarly studio manufactured.

Elevator Tester suggests that the album could be pure pastiche, ironically typical of a panpipe ditty you'd be subjected to in a hotel lift. The song is saved from cheesy oblivion by an obviously enthusiastic and sincere outro which unfortunately simultaneously eradicates the possibility that this could all be one big send up.

The duo also seem to have been given a multibuy discount at Irritating Sound Effects Dot Com. Carpe Diem's telephone ring grates on the nerves, and Home rams prevalent, continuous birdsong into the brain so caustically that it induces daydreams of taking aim at the pesky sparrows with a peashooter.

Laroca are best when their Latin flavours come to the fore: Valley Of The Bears emotive trumpet at least inspires movement, where the majority of the album appears geared towards laying inert on sunny grass or moonlit beach.

This is also true of Yallah Andalucia which blends traditional Spanish guitar, vocal and handclaps with the multitude of beats Laroca seem determined to cram into every track.

Their overproduction and incessant blending is perhaps where Pollard and Wakeford fall down. Each and every song is so smoothed of its own individual quirks by the same clich├ęd, ambient means that the record sounds like one long, very typical example of that dreaded generic tag 'chillout'.

There is some fantastic musicianship here, but oboe, sax and drums alike are denied a spotlight and sadly robbed of their potential by overzealous manipulation after the fact. The effect is an album doubtless more fun to perform than to hear.

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