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CD Feature/ Jakob: "Solace"

img  Tobias

Music is supposedly a tool to voice the unspeakable. But what do you do when there is really nothing left to say? How can you cope with feelings that are too painful to be touched? It is these questions that the oeuvre of New Zealand-based band Jakob deliriously revolves around. A threepiece composed of Guitarist Jeff Boyle, Bassist Maurice Beckett and the percussive backbone of the band Jason Johnston, their romantically apocalyptic Post Rock is inherently raw and immediate, carving out a gentle flow and epic narrative structures from amorphous walls of sonic granite. And yet, the strict reductionism of their line-up in itself doesn't shield them from the immanent dangers of becoming overly concrete. The real challenge is how to make yourself heard while trying not to make a sound.

Despite the paradoxical nature of this ambition, the band succeeds admirably in that aim on „Solace“. Pieces are mostly constructed linearly, built around dreamy verses and either elated or enraged chorusses - or drifting weightlessly on a soft groove for up to nine full minutes instead. Rather than re-inventing themselves on every song, there is a clear and constant division of labour within the formation throughout the album: Boyle is the shaman of the band, following the minimalist melodic suggestions of his licks down into their darkest corners and into scintillating, sensual sheets of noise rich in heartwrenching harmonics. Beckett is the irreversible, relentless pulse, beating like a vaguely discernible metronome underneath the trio's feverish skin, while Johnston's controlled strokes mark the physical time elapsing all around the great mystery Jakob are gyrating towards. The drums are, as is often the case, a solid anchor to prevent the music from spiralling out into the galaxy, but they are much more closely integrated into the overall sonic image than one has become accustomed to from similar bands – if there any, that is - which makes Jakob sound remarkably tight, organic and dense.

Even though former HDU member Tristan Dingemans guests as a vocalist on „Everything all of the time“, his contribution does not involve lyrics. Those looking for clear-cut statements will therefore find it hard discovering even the faintest hint of a message in track titles such as „Malachite“ and „Saint“. Quite obviously, „Solace“ is a book written with their own black blood in a private tongue, dealing with deeply personal affairs and shunning the light of simple truths. And yet, the group show an astounding ability of allowing the listener to perceive these utterly idiosyncratic emotions as an invitation to sharing. Their refusal to deviate from a path once chosen doesn't feel stubborn but comforting. Their spartanic thematic developments have a consoling ring to them. Their warm and consolidated sound, which never raises its voice above a silent scream, allows the audience to fill in the most horrible, plaintive and painful parts themselves. Is there a hidden meaning behind the album title? Is there a sad motivation lurking behind its melancholic tonality, just like predecessor „Cale:Drew“ was dedicated to the memory of Beckett's mother? We won't find out and it doesn't matter. As Jack, the group-addicted schizophrenic hero of „Fight Club“ wraps the paradox into words: „If I didn't say anything, people always assumed the worst.“

Quite a lot, hence, is different about this album: It isn't as loud, as aggressive nor as immediate as many comparable productions. It eschews hummable motives and headbangable riffs. It isn't blandly anthemic, euphoric-in-a-calculated way or outright depressive. It doesn't simply release the tension but moulds it softly in its hands like a surgically removed liver. Quite often, the pieces on „Solace“ sound like extended fade-out-sections of Rock songs, which will continue to haunt your days and dreams like looped records spinning on the turntables of your mind. There is a prolonged sensation throughout that things are brought to your awareness which do not yet have a definitive shape, but may mean something seminal very soon. It is almost as though Jakob know how fragile and volatile these emotions are, deciding to leave up whether to express them in full or not to the listener. If, therefore, you can't quite put into words why you love this album so much, then that may be part of their aim.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Jakob
Homepage: Conspiracy Records

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