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Review of Laroca's Friends in Faraway Places
, Manual 11 (Fall 2006)


Christine Moritz's review of Laroca's album Friends in Faraway Places appeared in Manual 11 of the downtempo magazine RE:UP.

Article reprinted by permission from RE:UP


Friends in Faraway Places
Just Music / 2006

With the aptly named Friends in Faraway Places, Laroca skillfully adds gently funky and exotic elements to a solid downtempo foundation.

Composed of Oxford residents Olly Wakeford and Rob Pollard, the British duo has assembled a varied collection of tunes for its first full-length. The group's instrumentation is somewhat unusual; in addition to keys and programming (by both) and bass and guitar (by Pollard), Laroca's tunes prominently feature flute (by Wakeford). To the project's credit, it largely succeeds in incorporating an instrument sometimes tainted by its association with Muzak. Friends in Faraway Places also features a host of guest performers (among them two vocalists), and the album's use of real cello, oboe, saxophone, and trumpet helps reinforce its overall organic feeling.

The opening track, the all-too-brief "La douleur exquise"—French for "exquisite sorrow"—lives up to its name. "Looking Like Lions" follows, accentuated by scratching and propelled by beats that mean business. With its abstract Eastern-flavored vocals, it's reminiscent of Thievery Corporation, but harder-edged, more ominous, and more definitively linked to the dancefloor. A few tracks later, "What's Odd About Chess" is similarly energetic, boasting a funky bassline. The delivery of rapper Mantmast enhances the tune, even if his rhymes sometimes leave a bit to be desired.

On the more downtempo side, the album's strengths include "Generalife," which creeps in on little cat feet with the sound of pizzicato strings. The muted Rhodes sound of "Plage Lodo" evokes the laid-back feeling of Air's Moon Safari, but with the addition of crisp percussion. The gently housey "Latin"—more synth-flavored than the other tracks on the album—pleasantly calls to mind Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out." The Eastern-tinged vocals of "Looking Like Lions" return in "Theme Flamboyant," whose trumpet flourishes conjure up Spain, perhaps the Arab-influenced region of Andalusia.

In all, Friends in Faraway Places is an accomplished debut that marks Laroca as a project to watch. CM


This page created Ferbuary 2007 - Last modified February 27, 2007

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