By: Nick Dodds
Jakob | website | facebook | twitter | bandcamp |
Released on October 21, 2014 via The Mylene Sheath
This is a release I never thought I’d get to hear, let alone write words about. Eight years is a long time between drinks, and while some may have forgotten about Jakob my desire to hear what they’d been up to only rose each year. But there was silence. Sure, there was a new update, a Bandcamp page, a Facebook wall, a Twitter account etc etc, but no new music. And then information came trickling through about injuries and life getting in the way. Cancelled tours, forgotten shows – everything seemed to be against our boys from Hawkes Bay. The injuries piled up, the fans waited, the gaping chasm grew wider. Eight long, empty years.
But now it’s here.
September 11th 2006 Jakob released Solace. In those heady days Justin Timberlake was sitting at No.1 on the charts by bringing ‘SexyBack’, the World Cup had recently finished, Google had just bought YouTube for $1.6 billion and Apple had just sold their one billionth song through iTunes (damn I hope it was Jakob). This is what Solace was released into.
And now it’s 2014. The only other band I can think of still yet to release the elusive ‘follow up’ album from 2006 is Tool… And that’s because of piles of lawyers trying to see how bad they can fuck up a group’s dynamic. But guess what – Jakob have done it. They have managed to craft, record and release an album that will almost certainly come to define who they are, what they do, and WHY they do it. This is a release of love, affection, passion, hope, desire and sheer wilful bloody mindedness. It drips with effort, relief and everything else that makes music special.
Before I start with Sines I want to give you all a bit of backstory. Some preamble if you will. I got home late at night from work back in 2001 and turned on the TV to music videos, which is what you did in those early Internet days. I was absent-mindedly watching images flash across the screen, beer in hand when I saw and heard something that changed my life. It was ‘Nice Day For An Earthquake’ off Subsets Of Sets. It was this:
I dropped my beer, it shattered everywhere and I didn’t give a shit. I stood there transfixed, not sure what I was hearing, but knowing that it was something truly special. It stuck with me for days, begging me to investigate, to learn, to know. I searched high and low across the wastelands of Melbourne, trying to find it. All I had was a name: Jakob. And I turned up nothing. I got sick of the looks of derision from counter staff tapping away at inventory keyboards, telling me that ‘no such act exists’, or that ‘are you sure you’re spelling it right?’. I knew. I KNEW goddamit. I saw it. I felt it. I heard it. And that started my long passion with this band. It was my ‘white whale’. None of my friends cared. No one put a hand up to help. So I kept searching, starting to wonder if I’d dreamt the whole thing in a haze of tiredness. And then out of all places, iTunes saved me. Mother fucking ITUNES. They had Cale:Drew. And I bought it – to this day the only thing I’ve ever bought off iTunes. I then went overseas and it was my single most listened to album for a year. I watched farmers till fields in Croatia, football louts punch on in London, touts rip off tourists in Bangkok and it was Cale:Drew for all of it. Listening to ‘Controle’ while I sat on a hill alone in Spain and watched the sunrise was a singular moment for me that I’ll cherish forever. A rare and special time where the music matched the surroundings so perfectly that you pinch yourself to make sure you’re actually alive, and not just wishing it. I was addicted.
So I feel now that I am supremely unprepared for this album. It’s been so long, and I’ve wanted it SO much that I don’t know if I can do it justice. But for Jeff, Jason and Maurice I’m going to give it a red hot go.
Sines kicks off with ‘Blind Them With Science’, the single (and video) off the album. It’s a great opener, all Jeff’s signature echo and delay swimming around your head while Jason’s drumming is as crisp as ever, with a hint of menace that trawls along beneath the surface. Mo’s bass provides low end counterpoint to Jeff’s guitar, the thudding a welcome home grounding that’s been sorely missed. Jason’s drumming as well is superb – his cymbal control is wonderful, and the sheer sizzle of the mix jumps right out at you. All is *moderately* Jakob until about the 4 minute mark, when it peters out into…… a riff. Yeah, a riff. It’s glorious. It spirals and echoes around your head as Jason and Mo slowly build up behind it, forcing you to lean forward until it explodes with previously unseen vigour, pushing you back as layer after layer of guitar wash over you, wails of feedback from both guitar and bass embracing you. The drums anchor you while the guitar and bass swirl, moving you in time to their notes until all too soon it is gone, leaving you with just Jeff’s lonely guitar riff looping through your ears. Watch it here:
Next up is ‘Emergent’ – a beautiful, delicate track that uses strings to convey a wonderful sense of fragility. It immediately made me think of Mono’s knack for delicacy and loss, and is one of only two tracks on the album with no drums. It is also quite possibly the most delicate/pretty thing Jakob have written. The strings carefully weave around you, passion and despair dripping from their bows as the guitar carefully chimes in here and there, the bass a simple anchor. Hearing Jakob finally utilise strings is something that now I’ve heard, I want more. So much more. This is Jakob discovering new colours, textures and instruments to paint with, and it works so well. A stunning track, and an excellent lead in to the next.
Ahhhh – ‘Magna Carta’. This track has been a staple of their live sets for well over 5 years now, and I’ve heard it many times. And yet knowing what was going to happen still didn’t take away from it. Here on Sines it’s been created anew, the same song reborn. Jeff’s densely layered guitar parts are familiar, Mo’s bass is the same as I’ve heard live and Jason’s methodical, almost drum-corps exact drumming is what I was ready for, but somehow they’ve added more sheen. It’s pulses and vibrates, demanding you to spend more time with it, uncovering extra layers that you simply will not get the first run through. The cymbals sing and chime, the guitar is melodic and fuzzy and the bass has more melody than you’re ready for. This was a track that I thought a touch ‘ho hum’ previously, but I now think will jump off the stage live. It drives and weaves around you for 6 minutes – if there was such a thing as a ‘post-rock pop song’ this would be it. Oh, and the last minute fadeout sounds spectacular LOUD.
‘Harmonia’ is up next, and quite possibly the best track on the album. It is a simply stunning piece of work, and testament to how much Jakob have grown and matured over the last 8 years. And while it retains that quintessential ‘Jakob’ feel it’s an evolution of sorts – Jeff’s guitar work soars and peaks like the New Zealand mountain tops over a thick bass groove laid down by Jason and Maurice, surging forwards and dragging you with it. Jason’s drumming is restrained and yet forceful at the same time, reminding you of how good he is. This track shines and shimmers, chiming in and out of your head until the true magic begins – the guitars fade out and the strings come in. The melancholy is palpable and soul destroying, shivers down your spine as they entwine deep into you, delving into memories forgotten and bringing them flooding back to the surface. The violins and cello are poignant without seeming trite, and simply wonderful to hear in this context – strings and vibrato in Jakob? Hell. Yes. And with a final crescendo of careful feedback it’s on to the next track.
‘Resolve’ is the longest track on the album, clocking in at a shade over 9 minutes, and it has a journey to take you on. It’s all about the band here, a cohesive whole rocking forwards, towards a point you don’t know about. Cymbals are crashing, multiple guitar lines rolling around you and that distinctive bass chugging away, detuned to a point that you think wouldn’t groove, but does. For the first four and a half minutes or so this is what you get, and it’s great, before it all ceases with one final cymbal crash and Mo’s bass wraps you in a blanket of fuzz. It’s a pretty great moment, and when Jeff’s main riff (part deux) comes in it highlights a band at the peak of their power. They know exactly what they are doing here – you’re a passenger, and you’re lucky they chose you to come with them. It’s reminiscent of ‘Jimmy Hoffa’ from Cale:Drew or ‘Malachite’ from Solace, a beautiful slab of thoughtful, well written post-metal/post-rock. But it’s more than that – it’s another track that benefits from multiple listens, layers revealing themselves over time.
And then we’re into the penultimate track, ‘Darkness’. I wonder if this song came about during the ‘dark times’ of constant hand injuries for the boys, when it seemed like this album was never going to come out. It’s a restrained, moody piece with piano and bass leading the way, Jeff’s guitar more of a sonic palette than an instrument per se. Mo’s bass is a big, warm, fuzzy blanket of regret and hope, while Jason’s muted drumming is mostly floor and mounted toms, possibly even with a soft mallet. It’s not a huge departure for them, but it still earns its place on the album as it provides a nice counterpoint to the previous track. I found it a great head nod to ‘Saint’ off Solace – a reminder of where they’ve come from, and how far that road has been. And again, Jeff’s soaring guitar fade out at the end is sublime.
And then we get to the final track – ‘Sines’. It seems a little strange naming the album after this track (and perhaps even placing this track at the end) as it’s probably the most ‘simple’ of the album. It’s largely slow guitar chords, drenched in reverb and fuzzy chord shifts, giving it an ethereal and spaced out vibe to finish your journey with. When I first heard it I thought that it should be at the start of this album, but after a few listens now I see why it’s there – this is your last does of brain floss. Your final peck on the cheek as it were. A last kiss before dying. It finishes with space – a concept that has been at the forefront of the whole album. This is Jakob nailing the coffin shut on you.
And like that, it’s over. Forty four odd minutes of sublime beauty. Make no mistake, this is an absolute corker of an album. It might not have ever seen the light of day without the sheer tenacity of these boys, and I can’t thank them enough for it. So this is hopefully a new beginning for a band that has skirted so close to the edge for the last 8 years, and has come perilously close to falling in. Instead they’ve created, recorded and released their best album ever. It’s a musical tale of redemption, and triumph. Hopefully this is a springboard for a lot more music.
It’s magnificent. It’s glorious. It’s wonderful. It’s goddamn motherfucking JAKOB. And it has absolutely 100% without a doubt been worth the wait. I’ve now listened to it about 15 times in 3 days, and I’ll probably listen to it another 15 by the end of the week. And it only gets better. It’s easily and absolutely my album of the year (sorry Mono, sorry Smith Street Band), and testament to why I love music so much. And from what I can hear on this album, it’s only onwards and upwards for Jakob…. And that couldn’t make me happier.
So Jeff, Jason and Maurice – thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for keeping the faith and releasing this. Thank you for bestowing this on the world.