Lay Llamas – Ostro (Rocket Recordings)

A psychedelic album from spiritual Sicilian temples and sunshine then mashed into eerie highs and chugging come downs

Released May 25th, 2014 via Rocket Recordings / By Ian Stanley
Lay Llamas – Ostro (Rocket Recordings) Sounds drawn from around the Mediterranean, inspired by spiritual Sicilian history and pulled from psychedelia saturate Ostro, the debut album from Sicilian band Lay Llamas. As Gioele Valenti from the band explains, “I think that Sicilians are more like Africans than Europeans in some way…in our music Africa is such a metaphysical place…different levels of enlightenment; a sense of a mystical path to follow.”

That mysticism and African groove is easy to spot in each introduction of feedback before each introduction of song on here. It’s not a quickfire album. It was recorded in a 6th Century BC Temple of Hera and most of the time it shows. Most of its production can be imagined as starting life bounced off those ancient temple walls and caught as a couple of samples.

It’s no surprise Lay Llamas admit they were “so influenced by the place’s mood, with that ancient presence in the air” and all of the places they have lived have somehow influenced them. Nicola Giunta, the second member of the group, has lived in Spain, Italy and the UK all in the past six years. And in every place he has recorded down sounds. It’s a heady metallic mixture that – when it works – wraps around you like hugging someone in a suit of armour. Sharp. But with a solid emotion.

There are some real moments of clarity on this album. ‘Archaic Revival’ is cool, dithering repetitive bass which delivers anticipation. ‘We Are You’ is a moment of marching electronics and monotone chanting drone driven and steered by the electronic buzz of a synthesizer. It’s got a hip-knockingly good groove with military precision. It’s regimental. But rebel.

Then there’s the bassline and vocal kick on ‘Something Wrong.’ After a teasing one and a half minutes of noise, it is a highlight of the album. The vocal is hot and dry. It begins with: “I swear, oh there’s something wrong/You were lying there at my window with a kitchen knife.” And gives the impression of the lazy mornings lost in a Mediterranean daze.

On calling the album Ostro, Nicola Giunta of Lay Llamas said: “It came from a dream of mine. A weird guy I’d never seen before says to me: “Your album title will be OSTRO!”…only a few days later I remembered I heard that word from the fishermen in Selinunte, the village where I come from. They said Ostro blows on Sicily only a few times during the year.” Apparently, Ostro is the southerly wind in the Mediterranean sea and so the location, the history, that strong sense of spiritualist sound and the instrumentation ties all neatly together.

Ostro places the Sicilian band in the warm psychedelic embrace of Rocket Recordings labelmates Goat and Gnod. This is an album inspired by its ancient and cultural surroundings and knotted into the modern era. There is room for improvement, but stand out songs are unshakable like a trip that hangs around for hours.