- 23 Jan 15
Another masterpiece from the two-time Choice Winner.
Listening to Jape’s fifth album, it’s little surprise to learn that band ringleader Richie Egan relocated from Dublin to Malmo a few years ago. Although This Chemical Sea – the follow-up to 2011’s similarly nautically titled Ocean of Frequency (which bagged Jape a second Choice Prize gong to match the one awarded for 2008’s Ritual) – has its occasional feelgood moments, there’s a perceptible strain of Nordic melancholia running through many of its ten, atmospheric tracks. That Egan’s mother sadly passed away midway through the recording may also have been a contributing factor.
While previous Jape offerings have alternated between acoustic guitars and electronica, This Chemical Sea features plugged in electro-pop throughout. Despite being the main driver and songwriter, Egan has always claimed that Jape is a band rather than a solo project. Apparently for this record – mixed by renowned Caribou/FKA twigs/Jungle producer David Wrench – he initially worked alone in his Malmo home studio, but sent the demos back to long-term Jape member Glenn Keating. He also enlisted the help of Villagers’ Conor J. O’Brien for the wonderful penultimate track ‘Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon’.
Kicking off with a funky bass and rapid fire blasts of drum machine, synthy second cut ‘Séance of Light’ is impressive. Featuring slightly otherworldly vocals, it sounds the way early Depeche Mode would have, if ecstasy had been available in Essex in the early ‘80s. “In this séance of light/ You’ve been hiding/ You’re hiding from life/ In this torrent of days/ Pay attention they’re slipping away.”
Not that this is a druggy album. The chemicals referenced aren’t all for pleasure – some are obviously pollutants. The anthemic ‘Absolutely Animals’ features a chorus of, “Colliding ice/ Folding glaciers/ Wash the past away.” On ‘Metamorphosis’, he warns, “There’s something in the water/And nobody is swimming/ The things you need for living/ are not for sale.”
Although the album title suggests despair over the wanton destruction of our natural resources, ‘I Go’ finds Egan regretting the hedonistic wearing down of our own mind and bodies: “How many years spent polluting our bodies/ How many years on the town/ Another sunrise peaking our eyes/ But have we wasted what we found?” Most electro-pop is all style over substance, mood over matter, but this has a lot more lurking beneath its sonic surface. Egan has explained that the underlying focus of This Chemical Sea is to emanate “the place we all live, somewhere between shallowness and depth.”
The haunting title track closes the album: “This chemical sea/ Where decisions go wrong/ Where you piss away life/ Where you drown your song/ Keep plumbing the depths/ So the mermaids can’t see.”
Easily Jape’s most cohesive album to date, This Chemical Sea seems likely to garner at least another Choice Prize nomination. Drown in its sound.