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On Jape's former single, 'Strike Me Down', Richie Egan abrasively shuffled through choppy indie pop before pulling its plug to reveal an ambient chorus with digital glitches and bleeps. There has been an inconsistency to Egan's songwriting, based on an endearing desire to try everything. His fifth album, The Chemical Sea, documents his coming of age as an artist and a unified sound for an album. He recorded the album with two key differences compared to his albums to date. He left his home of Ireland to move to Malmo in Sweden, where he made a new recording space for himself. Secondly, he brought live bandmate, Glenn Keating, into the writing process for the first time for his feedback and bounce ideas with.
The consequence of his choices is an album with a joining silky texture that ripples in synths, bass grooves and dashes of piano. He moves away from the rock and folk elements that he has incorporated before to delve into reflective synthpop. The album's title refers to an age of pollution we live "where we piss away our lives." He explores his observations and detachment of the time we are now in with lofty, echoed vocals that sound otherworldly. The mood of the record is anchored by a sense of things not being quite right as the infectious opening 'Séance Of Life' celebrates the freedom in escapism. The record works backwards in accounting the struggles that brought on this state of mind. 'I Go' describes a feeling of loss about the years that have passed ("I feel emptiness becoming my equal"), while 'Breath Of Life' sings of losing a loved one.
Yet, despite the album's latent melancholy, his humour and charm never stray too far. The tense synthpop of 'Metamorphosis' testifies how "we're putting poison in our sandwiches" which comically cuts through the song's hopeless theme of drowning. It also features a repetitious loop of the word "sun" which is potential wink to the song of the same name found on Caribou's aquatic-influenced record Swim and to the fact they share the same mixing engineer, David Wrench.
Richie Egan's refinement of Jape's sonic remit has made an album of enveloping dance pop and informed meditations on our cultural times. It's a warm album, made with care and sincere words that attempt to transcend the transient. Songs such as 'Séance Of Life' capture the unreality our mind escapes to in times of difficulty, whilst delivering one of strongest pop songs of his career. This Chemical Sea is a blend of quirky electronic pop that offers a soothing space to take you elsewhere. Instead of the restlessness heard on previous Jape records, there is a calm at the heart of this sea.
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