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CD Feature/ The Sea and Cake: "Car Alarm"

img  Tobias

Even though digital downloads are quickly taking over from physical sales and live streaming is bound to eventually replace the ceremony of attending concerts, there is something special to the live situation which no software or virtual technology has yet been able to replicate. After touring Australia, the Sea and Cake for one felt themselves unable to simply return to their quotidian lives, to their families, sideprojects and solo careers. Filled to the brim with the images and impressions gathered on the road, they decided to enter the studio straight away to recpature the sensation of intensely and immediately interacting with highly reponsive audiences in tightly packed halls and to mould all those prismic bits and pieces into a new musical entity. Their audacity has paid off: Replete with benign tension and electrifying excitement, „Car Alarm“ sounds like a band surfing on the waves of the moment.

This is not to say that the album comes across as a rushed affair or even as a hectic follow-up to last year's „Everybody“. Quite on the contrary: On a first listen, the record's most striking features are its feathery Guitar runs and airy grooves, its elastic Bass lines and compact song writing with tracks invariably settling around the four minute mark. Stripped of vocals, „Car Alarm“ is, in fact, demonstratively laid-back, a work to keep you warm in Winter and to herald the bliss of a hot Summer. It is only through Sam Precop's voice that the pieces develop a naive and charming gravitational pull. His melodic lines are, without fail, long, lenient and winding, effortlessly stretching across several chord cycles and resolving striking staccato-passages into sudden streams of fluency.

It is never quite clear whether the band is hypnotically following in his slipstream or whether they are leading the way by laying down the ideal foundation for his timeless themes. Whatever it may be, the outcome is an incredibly upbeat sound which is as hard to classify as it is irresistible. Much too concise to be Jazz, too soft to be Rock, too catchy and casual to be classified as Prog and too introspective to work as Pop, the band has comfortably distanced itself from its image (at least in Europe) as an intellectual combo playing a semi-complex kind of fusion. The more one allows the music to simply flow instead of asking all sorts of supposedly clever questions about its influences, implications and stylistic combinations, the more „Car Alarm“ reveals the band to be playing an Indie-oriented blend of one of the least obvious genres you'd associate them with: Soul.

Needless to say, the album offers plenty of details on repeat listens and under the protective atmosphere of your headphones, songs like „Weekend“  bare a lot of organically applied production techniques -  including pingponging chords in the stereo image, electronic sequencer bubblings, child organs played by an alien cat during fade-out and an inquisitive Electrobass. Fender Rhodes fantasy „New Schools“ with its winding Blues-Guitar solo and polyphonic vocal harmonies, meanwhile, creates a sensation of complete coolness rightly because of its open arrangement, which delicately forces the listener to fill in the missing links himself. Songs like this  are plentiful on „Car Alarm“ and it is here that the Sea and Cake are probably at their most effective. Even though modern technology has come a long way in allowing artists to realise their vision as exactly and unerringly as possible, there is something special about a band which still trusts its audience to use its imagination.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: The Sea and Cake
Homepage: Thrill Jockey Records

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