Three years after their critically acclaimed debut album, Laroca released Valley Of The Bears and it becomes swiftly obvious how much the band have matured and grown. ''The first album sounded like a lap-top bedroom creation,'' says Olly. ''On this record we tried to capture more of the spontaneity you get from playing live in the studio. We wanted to sound like a band, although the cut-and-paste afterwards is still what shapes the final outcome.''
The result is a seamless hybrid of live instruments and digital manipulation in which it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. ''We begin by working together to create the initial sketches,'' Rob explains. ''Then we bring in musicians to work in the studio and it morphs into something else. Finally it goes back into the computer and becomes something else again.''
The whole process was complicated by Rob disappearing off to China for a year in the middle of making the record. His imminent departure forced a highly creative focus in a hectic bout of writing and some urgent recording.
The diverse crew corralled to join them in the studio included keyboards-player Matt Derbyshire and drummer Mike Reed (both of whom also play with Rob in Introducing, who are performing DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing" in its entirety live at various festivals this summer); Egyptian oud player Tarik Beshir and trumpeter Steve Preston from Oxford band the Brickwork Lizards; Ricky Fabulous (gtr) from Belleruche; French import MC Accord; sax player Johnny L from ska band the Nine Ton Peanut Smugglers and conga player Mr Smiff from the Breakin Even Collective.
While in China, Rob spent most nights chopping up and mutating the raw material on his computer, ''taking out some of the clutter'' and bouncing mixes back to Olly in the UK. On his return in 2008 - complete with a recording of the Chinese bullfrogs croaking outside his window which has also found its way on to the album - they finessed and fashioned it into Valley of The Bears.
From the opening track ''Brassic'' with its wild, lurching gypsy waltz-to-the-end-of time vibe via the mutant Afro-funk of ''Unit 125'' and the fractured Gallic noir of ''Carpe Diem'' to the jazzy shuffle and muted trumpet of the penultimate track ''Pluck'', it's an album that conjures such vivid images that you're left thinking 'someone really ought to make a film to go with this'. Hollywood wouldn't know where to begin. But a Kusturica or Almodovar, perhaps.
''Our one ambition was to make the kind of record that we ourselves would want to hear,'' Rob concludes. There's a growing crowd that already agrees.