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The Jimmy Cake, "Spectre & Crown"

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cover imageInstrumental bands are everywhere and invariably they sound like some combination of Mogwai, Godspeed and Explosions in the Sky. Other influences creep in but rarely do they escape the dreaded "post rock" tag, not without some gimmick anyway. The Jimmy Cake do manage to come across as being separate to this whole thing, despite on paper sounding like they are the archetypal late '90s/early '00s art rock band: nine core members, string section, unusual instruments and long songs. No, they are more than that; they have a creative spirit that pushes them beyond their contemporaries.


Pilatus Records

Every city has one, a band that for some strange reason never really made it beyond its borders yet deserves to take over the world. Instead of being known for U2 or Westlife, Dublin should be known for The Jimmy Cake. Since I first heard them they have been in my top five artists of all time, fighting off much impressive competition to retain their place. Their previous albums and live shows have blended krautrock with blistering jazz, rock with contemporary composition and sprinklings of inspired improvisation. Unfortunately, for the last five years they have only surfaced occasionally in local venues, aside from the odd compilation release, there has been no recorded output at all since 2003's Superlady EP. Thankfully, despite many line up changes over the last few years, they are back with Spectre & Crown which has very much been worth the wait.

The most obvious change to my ears with this album is that the group have mellowed a bit. The fiery, jazzy explosions of their older releases has been dampened down, instead Morricone-esque motifs take to the fore. The whole thing sounds more measured and calculated. However, there is still a strong motorik rhythm going through the album, it is not like they have all of a sudden stopped rocking out. Pieces like "Jetta's Place" manage to combine this energy without spilling out of control. "The Day the Arms That Came Out of the Wall" is a more laid back affair; a languid and fluid bass line allows the brass section and piano to build up before reaching a joyous climax.

And joy is an emotion that The Jimmy Cake generally have in bucket loads. I cannot help but smile when listening to them but there are a couple of more solemn moments on Spectre & Crown. "Red Tony" is an elegiac piece; a downhill piano line starts the music rolling, each member of the band adding a small piece of melancholy. Elsewhere, the strings and recordings of rain on "The Art of Wrecking" evoke the same feelings as listening to Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic. The combination of the mournful strings and water is crushing in its beauty.

Towards the end of Spectre & Crown is the monumental "Hugs for Buddy." Here is a melting pot of everything that makes The Jimmy Cake special. The powerful rhythms (centred around the most solid drumming this side of John Bonham's ghost) and layers and layers of instrumentation bring to mind the poppier side of Sterolab being channelled through whatever dimension that Can plucked Tago Mago from. In a word, it is cosmic. Doctors should use it as a clinical test for paralysis because it is impossible not to get completely lost in it and shake your money-maker for its duration.

I cannot convey how enjoyable Spectre & Crown is. After a painfully drawn out recording process, this could have very easily ended up overworked, overproduced and ultimately flat. Thankfully there has been no over- egging of The Jimmy Cake, they have risen to the occasion and now is the time for them to get their just desserts.


Last Updated on Sunday, 20 April 2008 12:43  


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