Shoot The Freak
I’ve been listening to the new Jakob album a lot. More than is often the case before reviewing something. That’s only made the job harder – because I can’t really hear it now without thinking about the album’s back-story, the hurt and struggle, the stop/starts, the rebirth/s of the band.
But then I press play again and as soon as the opening track, Blind Them With Science, rolls into place I’m there with just the music. The music envelops the room, curls into corners like drifting smoke, finds spaces to hide in and unfurl, it soundtracks whatever task I’m doing – driving, reading, writing – and even when I am listening to it as any form of “background” (or better, backdrop) I’m caught by the music. It stops me. Pulls me in – my attention focuses on the sound of this band, the way this three-piece conjures sonics – a collective sonic – as if post-rock orchestra, the feel of metal is still there, elements of prog-rock almost, but no silly noodling. For Jakob’s sound has always been about a whittling, a paring back, a chiselling down to leave only what matters.
What matters when listening to Sines is understanding it as the eight-years-in-the-making sequel to 2006’s Solace – a refinement and improvement, just as that was an improvement and refinement of 2003’s Cale: Drew and that was to 2001’s Subsets of Sets. You can hear the development, you can guess the order of these albums in hearing them – the band never (quite) repeating itself, always finding some startling new essence, honing in on the spaces between the surges, so much of post-rock is about the big rise, the swell, the crash, the crescendo. But Jakob delivers not just there but at every step of the journey. Here we have the strings that cling to Emergent, holding it back – beautifully. And that create the compelling coda to Harmonia, a subtle drift that’s only ever been something you could imagine in a Jakob record or performance – the maturing of the sound here has the band providing (with assistance from Rhian Sheehan) the score to its own silences if you like, the mood-enhancement via string arrangements, a new addition to Jakob’s sound, but a continuation of the pull and pulse of their music.
When Resolve lights up to find its “crescendo” for nearly six minutes of its nine-minute run time you can be sure you’re hearing the band’s inner fury, all the frustrations of injured hands and record labels folding, of day-jobs and life getting in the way. The eight years distilled into six minutes. A whittling away. That refinement.
When you hear the brooding atmospherics of Darkness you hear a band that no longer deserves to be tagged as merely post-rock, for this is a trio of musicians exploring not only a sound but ‘sound’ in general. Though they get very specific, drilling down into the core of each piece, finding a heart through exposing their collective soul within the music, this isn’t just a three-piece raised on metal and rock music. This is a band – this is Jakob, collective noun – the three puppeteers that pull the parts of the band’s sound and move it together are all crucial, none are replaceable; their ability to harness and hold the sound, to pull back and back, to wait – and then wait some more, to enable a listener’s own emotions to enter into each piece, the music existing as living score, this isn’t (just) post-rock, this is modern composition – it’s the classical music that three players performing on stock-rock instruments can make, it’s Dead Can Dance and A Winged Victory For The Sullen as much as it’s HDU or Pelican and it’s Cliff Martinez and Clint Mansell as much as it was ever anything from Tool or Isis. And always it is Jakob. A most refined sound now – the closing title track could stand as this group’s masterpiece within this album – and I was already sure that Sines was the band’s masterpiece back when I heard it the first dozen times or so.
Now I’m at the point where I’m finding new things in the album each time, new favourite moments within favourite songs. And it might take other listeners a while to get there – so the best advice is to clear some time and sit down with this album. Just sit with it. Or take it with you on a long car drive. Let it play again and again as you experience it in a few different locations, a few new settings. Let the album talk to you – allow it to be the conduit as you conjure up images and memories, as you feel like your waking life has become some movie that now has its very perfect score.
It’s been a great year for wonderful music – so many amazing albums. Jakob’s new record – so very much worth the wait, and already seeming worth its weight in gold and then some – is among the very best of the year, a special record. One I can’t imagine living without. And one I’ll never quite be able to understand, in terms of the toll it took on its players, the angst and energy and love and care and thought and power – and time, human time (and money) that went into its creation. Some ultimate form of blind faith really. For you can never know really how something is going to turn out until it’s there and living and allowing people to comment on it. To bring themselves (in) to it.
The members of Jakob might have worried they’d released the wrong version of this album, chosen the wrong pieces. Or assembled them in the wrong way.
They’ve lived with this for so long. And they’ve finally allowed it go into the world. To circle and soar. And it is their finest statement in music. (For now). The very best they have offered to date. A something that is so special that all of these words – and the many other words I’ve used in other spaces around this album – are wasted. You just need to have this record. You need to hold it. And let it take hold on you.
It’s a mighty achievement. It’s a thing of utmost beauty. It’s the new Jakob record. And you should expect nothing less from this than to be stunned to silence, an elated-stupor – punch-drunk on the first few listens. Then feeling invincible and any kind of wonderful whenever you hear it. Sines is the album of Jakob’s lifetime. It’s all (now) that matters.