Review: Jape – This Chemical Sea

Jape

This Chemical Sea

[Faction Records]

There is a two-tone effect to Jape’s latest album, This Chemical Sea. Through headphones, it’s melodic and it carries you away on a wave of delight but when performed live – to paraphrase Michael Caine in The Italian Job – it’s gonna blow the bloody doors off and give you life.

This is Richie Egan’s fifth album as Jape and it’s definitely his most polished and possibly his best so far. The album kicks off with ‘Seance of Light’, which is sure to put a bounce in your step and is then followed by the ever joyous ‘This Heart’s Desire’. The immediate effect of these songs is that with just two bites in, this album is so easy to digest. This Chemical Sea is, from start to finish, an electronic album. Acoustic guitar only appears on one track, ‘I Go’, but the rest of the songs are driven by synthesisers and bass. This formative and definite electronic stance places him alongside the likes of Chromatics and Caribou. David Wrench, who mixed Caribou’s outstanding Our Love took care of This Chemical Sea too so this comparison is no coincidence.  However, Egan hasn’t totally broken away from his sound from previous albums like Ritual or The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me. He has just perfected it.

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‘Without Life in the Way’ starts off with a slow line of funk and, lyrically, it more or less invites you to slow it all down and enjoy what’s around you. This Chemical Sea deals with the theme of pollution – of the environment, our minds and of our own bodies – and in the weeks following the indulgences of Christmas, the line “we manufacture our own seasons/we couldn’t learn another language/we’re putting poison in our sandwiches” from ‘Metamorphosis’ couldn’t ring more true.

The hypnotic repetition of ‘Breath of Life’, ‘Absolutely Animals’ and ‘Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon’ has a made-for-festivals vibe about it, evoking the warmth of an adoring crowd cancelling out the chill from an Irish summer’s night. This album is so compact and the arrangements are so precise that you know that a lot of labour and love went into its creation with every second being meticulously pored over until it was just right.  ‘Love on a Crest of a Wave’ is a great example of this attention to detail. Its swirling synths and thudding beat reel you in and take over until the break of ecstatic exhaustion. Really, it’s a trip.

It’s been 11 years since the release of his debut album and with every new effort, Egan proves again and again why he is one of Ireland’s best alternative acts. So, for a direct line to happiness, buy this album, get to love it and by the time his Irish tour dates come around in February, you can witness the two-tone effect of this album come to life.

FIVE OUT OF FIVE