Jakob – Sines (2014)

12 Jacket (Gatefold - Two Pocket) [GD30OB2-N]

It’s been a long laborious journey, a tale of failed record labels, broken equipment and broken hands but finally, Hawkes Bay post-rock band Jakob have returned with their fourth full-length album, Sines.

And it’s a return I welcome. Their three prior albums are amongst my favourite albums, both post-rock and of New Zealand artists, but not having heard anything from them for so long had me wondering if this band had quietly faded away, like some of their epic soundscapes can fade away with a shimmer of echoing guitar.

But no, they’re back. Rumours began to swirl mid-year, early copies of the album were released to some media and influencers, and the day the album went onto pre-sale I ordered my copy. Then, a few weeks ago, it arrived in the letterbox, and since then I’ve been listening to it frequently, letting it seep in, letting it reveal its full beauty.

Because this is a beautiful album; full of the emotional intensity, tension and release that has marked the sound of this trio over the last decade or so. The songs build from subtle beginnings, washes of trebly guitar accompanied by rolling drums and looming bass, before exploding into layers of distortion and noise.

The album’s opening track, ‘Blind Them With Science’, sits well within the style that Jakob most commonly inhabit, and from within which they produce some of the best music of their genre. Building slowly with Jeff Boyle’s layered, swooping guitars before Jason Johnston’s drums and and Maurice Beckett’s bass lurch in, like a looming behemoth lumbering in through the mist. Then, Boyle’s guitar opens up, digital delay drenching a percussive, trebly sound, rising from under the rhythm until it expands and soars. The guitar flying free as Johnston starts to bring the cymbals into the mix.

But from as early as the album’s second track, ‘Emergent’, it becomes apparent that on Sines Jakob are spreading their musical wings, finding new musical words to express their post-rock language. Here gorgeous strings arranged by Rhian Sheehan provide the core. Boyle’s guitar and Beckett’s bass simply circle around a repetitive, hypnotic motif, as the strings creep in, gently at first, then swelling, soaring, letting the musical landscape bask as if under a rising sun.

The strings also make a heart-wrenching reappearance on ‘Harmonia’, the song concluding with their aching sadness where, in the past, Jakob would’ve let the guitar spiral down to bring the song to a fade. It’s a maturing of their sound, a grasping of other colours within the sonic palate that allow them to paint their musical soundscapes with colours both brighter and darker than ever before.

Still, I can’t quite grasp the album with as much adoration as some others have. It’s great; and a great ‘next-step’ for this band that’s been a long time coming. However, I somehow get a sense that it could’ve perhaps been even more. Hearing about the equipment failures that occurred during recording at Roundhouse, and the insufficient time allowed for both the initial recording and mixing makes me wonder if this album is really all that it could be.

Or perhaps that’s just the lingering feeling I’m left with after the album ends with the title track, a five-minute drone of guitar swoops and swoons that feels formless, unshaped. While it’s moving, and moody, it makes me wonder if the song ‘Sines’ – and the album itself – could’ve been even more.

And that leaves me with hope. I’m not frustrated that Sines leaves me wanting more; rather I’m excited. I hope that this album’s long-awaited release indicates that we will both see and hear more from Jakob in the near future. Boyle’s indicated he wants to get back into the studio soon, and with with what Sines has shown Jakob are now pointing themselves towards I’m going to be very eager to here what they do next.

But, in the meantime, if Sines may not be the finest album Jakob have yet done (for me, that’s still 2008’s Solace), with ‘Resolve’ they’ve presented what may be their finest nine minutes of music ever. Because, after three minutes of build this song explodes into a massive wall of sound with Boyle’s guitar hitting a percussive, sharp tone he’s never achieved before. And as his guitar clatters along, lurching drunkenly, prettily above the rumbling drums and bass, I throw my head back, bask in the sound. Vast; massive; the beauty of the sound of open spaces and darkness complete.

Beer match: I’d pair this album with the ‘Freyja’, a “California Common” or “Steam Ale” from Christchurch’s Valkyrie Brewing. This beer is rich, deeply dark, but with a generous hop profile that arrives in the mouth with a crisp snap, before leaving a long, lingering, beautiful aftertaste. It matches the build; the release and fade of Jakob’s instrumental songs well.

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Jakob – Solace (2006)

Jakob  SolaceMy day job involves a lot of things, but the things I love most are where I get to put my earphones in, play some music, and get down to a good un-interrupted bout of research, writing or editing.

Over time I’ve found I prefer a few styles of music with each of those stages. Research and note-writing usually suits complex time signature, maybe proggy stuff. Bashing out the first draft of something goes easiest with something intense and rhythmic; maybe a bit of metalcore, or something propulsively electronic.

And for the editing, give me big, looming, post-rock. And when I’m really struggling to find a way through something, I’ll put on Solace, the 2006 album from Napier-based post-rock band, Jakob.

Solace seeps quietly in, with a repeating, reverb-laden guitar motif slowly building (the same motif that ended their previous album, Cale:Drew), before the drums drip in over a throbbing bass. Steadily, inexorably this open track, ‘Malachite’, builds. Further guitars are layered, subtly, adding texture and colour, hinting at vast vistas of sound that soon arrive as the melody changes to a jangling chord progression, waves of delay sweeping the shimmering guitar over a large sonic range.

It’s much the same throughout for the seven songs that make up this, their last album before going into a (reasonably recently ended) hiatus. Part of the pattern is that most tracks will fall into a lull, tumbling back to the opening motif before exploding into a massive wall of sound.

By the end of most tracks Jeff Boyle has opened up his chords and kicked down on quite a few pedals to lift his guitar sounds to a huge glittering slab of sound. Bassist Maurice Beckett’s adds a wall of distortion, and perhaps a few chords, to his sound, while Jason Johnston relaxes his often taut, coiled style to let the cymbals ring clear and long.

But if it’s a formula, it’s a massive sound that draws me in. Enthrals me and allows my mind to clear and soar, no matter what I’m doing. A sound I find uplifting, inspiring. Something that sends any distractions from my mind, leaving me with just this beautiful vista of noise allowing me to put nothing but the ideas and words I’m playing with front and centre.

When out walking Wellington listening to music, as I’m wont to do, I’m often scanning the skyline and clouds. I’m hoping for a play of light, the sun hitting a certain angle, a certain combination of hills, buildings and sky that speaks to enigmatic natural beauty.

That’s what this album sounds like, to me.

Solace

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Jakob have recently been back in the studio, recording (at last) their follow up to Solace. I really can’t wait; they’re a band who has never let me down yet.

Solace, and Jakob’s earlier albums, are all available from their bandcamp page.