Los Angeles has been home for some of the progressive bands including Spock’s Beard, Tool, Carmen, and Intronaut. One of the up-and-coming bands coming from L.A. is a trio that formed back in 2013 with styles of Jazz Rock, Fusion, and Progressive rolled into a gigantic sleeve named King Llama. They consider Luis Briones on Drums and Percussion, Ryan Tanner Bailey on Guitar, and Nico Staub on Bass, Baritone Guitar, and Percussion.
The inspirations from what I’ve heard in King Llama’s music are a cross between as if Frank Zappa was making hot-and-spicy BBQ sandwiches with a gigantic dosage of Tabasco sauce and bands such as Rush, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson were having lunch at the Grand Wazoo’s house and they both recorded sessions and never saw the light of the day. Return to Ox is the name of their debut album and it almost feels like a strange episode or something out of the short stories written between the late ‘50s/early ‘60s.
Their debut album was recorded last year at EastWest Studios and it feels to me that you are in the studio watching this amazing trio duking it out through their instruments and giving some mind-blowing improvisation throughout the compositions displaying through the sheer momentum. Shuffling rhythms (with a bit of Ska) followed by the funky bass lines as fuzz-tone keyboards comes into play with Just The Tip.
There’s a midsection with energized and exhilaration beats and not to mention some wah-wah guitar improve and mesmerizing drum solo’s. Call Me Elmo is King Llama honoring the style of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato as the voyages transforms from mellow, emotive structures and into fiery eruptive power while Hershey Highway is Nico Staub coming center stage.
Here Nico is going through his bass lines of Les Claypool meets Stanley Clarke as Bailey’s guitar goes forwards Sly and the Family Stone and King Crimson. Mighty Ox sees more of Nico heading into the streets of Geddy Lee. It’s Llama honoring at times Rush’s Moving Pictures-era in a Fusion Rock momentum. With reverb spacey effects and ending in a race-driven finish line at the last minute of the composition.
Return to Ox is an okay album, not good, but okay. However it is likely the thrilling ride that after that roller-coaster ride you went on, you want to go back for more and more. The trio have taken me by surprise and I hope they will continue to carry that sound in the years and futures to come.