Calm Before The Storm
Rough Peel Records (RPR)
Here’s the latest set of songs from The Cakekitchen (aka Graeme Jefferies). Since the late 1980s Jefferies has been adding to a body of work – under the Cakekitchen name – that includes earnest lo-fi singer/songwriter fare, bedsit punk and beguiling field recordings. Sometimes you’ll hear this all in the same song – certainly you’ll hear these sorts of ideas across any one album and Calm Before The Storm features recordings that have been worked on across the last four years, the first Cakekitchen album since the Australian-centric Kangaroos In My Top Paddock.
The opening For So Long slowly unfolds over nearly 10 minutes, a gentle intensity to this track as the simple guitar and piano lines mingle – like a bedsit-charm take on Wilco’s One Sunday Morning but with the sort of percussion you last heard on The Velvet Underground’s Murder Mystery. Jefferies’ voice – a disquieting murmur at times, breaking off to accent itself with baritone asides, bass hiccups that punctuate his flow – is something all his own. And wonderful. But then – you’d expect that. For no one else is writing songs like this – they deserve the sort of idiosyncratic treatment he affords them.
The closing title track is a gorgeous, windswept instrumental – and in between we have political songs (Back of A Bus), punk throwaway ditties (Work Today) and strange tales (Boganfoot Bill).
Kudos to Rough Peel Music – their Rough Peel Records imprint is behind the ltd edition vinyl, the correct way to own this album. But you can always visit the Bandcamp page to order the vinyl (if you’re not Wellington-based) or to buy the downloadable version of these songs. Really wonderful songs too, Little Blue Penguins might be my favourite, a possibly Pet Sounds-inspired set of sounds couched in a beautifully unsettling instrumental. But of course I say that and then Parrot Island, Mrs Fishbone and the lovely, evocative Calm Before The Storm all arrive to challenge it. I’m transported to a gloomy basement flat, a guy wrestling with the muse, a musician conjuring – once again – that subtle, strange magic that only he has.