||Ocean of Frequency
||30 September 2011
||Music Is For Losers
Despite the fact that Richie Egan aka Jape has not got anything approaching an orthodox strong ‘voice’, he has in the past written an array of songs that would put many a vocally dexterous singer songwriter to shame. In addition his fourth album Ocean Of Frequency finds him displaying the sort of production wizardry and quirkiness that has garnered him much acclaim in the last decade.
Like Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt, the Redneck Manifesto man makes hay with his perceived limitations to create twisted and aurally beautiful works. His love of electro indie pop and melancholic folk meld together wonderfully none more so than on the opening tracks 'An Hallucination' and 'Please Don’t Turn The Record Off'. The former showcases not only Egan’s burgeoning production polish but the bubbling darkness that lies shallow throughout his recordings. It’s a swooning swarm of sound that whets the appetite for the rest of the album. The latter track is a high octane slice of bouncy pop punctuated with swatting loops of record scratch. The trademark bass playing and quirky synth add oomph to a big and bold pop number.
The minimal industrial sound to 'The Oldest Mind' finds Egan almost in David Sylvian mode without losing focus on his own strong traits. The breathy looped backing vocals add to the dense atmosphere. This is quite a curious but gorgeous mix of far eastern influenced electronica with Krautrock inflections that build in tempo until we imagine ourselves in the last disco at the end of the universe endlessly bopping our heads off to the hypnotic sound. A standout track for sure.
A sense of unease is unleashed on 'Too Many People' through the lyrics and once more we are stuck in slow motion dancing to murky eighties electronica.
Although a slight man, Egan is not one to stay in the corner musically so it’s not too surprising to hear the emergence of the vocoder on 'One Of Those Days That Just Feels So Long'. This is Jape par excellence in terms of their ability to write a nostalgic teenage song full of foggy daydreams and half caught memories. In saying this the number isn’t the strongest despite a good attempt to combine some cheesy musical elements with a subtle drone.
'Borrowed Time With Peace' couldn’t be more removed from the previous song as it mines a soulful sorrowful disposition that interlaces faint semi acoustic guitar picking with some interesting drumming. The idiosyncrasy of Jape makes it natural for them to be bouncing along to eighties electro pop one moment only to pull on the brakes and become more introspective like on this track. Comparisons to something off Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets are not unfounded.
The multiple personality angle continues on 'Scorpio' that could be a late year anthem, something approaching if not on the same level as 'Floating'. This feel good acoustic track sounds like Neu, English folk and Wings period Paul McCartney rolled into one. Great pop music sometimes emerges from the whimsy inexplicably and no doubt Jape has got his thumb on this here.
'You Make The Love' isn’t quite on par with the rest of the album, it’s easy going but not very effective. Maybe it would do for a Hot Chip b-side but not as a key part of an album.
Despite the mid album breeziness Jape returns to intricate layering on 'Internal Machine' that rises and blips in its opening electronic motif and merges in the vocals like some Laurie Anderson experimentation. This is another sonic highpoint of the album especially its soaring outro.
Best song on the album has to be 'Its Shadow Won’t Make Noise'. At once fragile and stirring, the childhood nostalgia coupled with surrealism that Egan is so good at reaches its current zenith. It’s a song of wonderful melody and grand sweeping emotion that is wistful as well as playful. Without meaning to do Jape a disservice but imagine it in the hands of someone with a grander voice, the tune could be opened up to infinite possibilities.
The closer and title track defines the album in that it bridges its two main elements of pop songwriting and dense slow electronica to great effect. The clipped bassline, the time changes, the slashes of synth and of course the rousing chorus combine well to drive the record home.
There’s a real satisfaction in listening to a home ground talent so free and easy about their love of all things pop and commercial as well as the obscure, the obtuse and the left of field. Jape continue to mine the musical stratosphere of whatever takes their fancy and do it with so much panache and humour. The songs at times may be delicate and light but whatever lies beneath the surface is a force of dense innovation and dark ingenuity to be reckoned with. The album is a schizophrenic melting pot of pop song writing and opaque layered soundscapes but it is all the better for it. Please don’t turn the record off indeed.
- Tim Gannon