I haven’t always kept up to date with Richie Egan’s work, but his music does still soundtrack some of the major junctures of my twenties. The euphoric ‘Floating’ in the dance floor haze of early college and new found freedoms. Ritual with it’s more self-searching themes as I was entering post college life. I missed out Ocean of Frequency but This Chemical Sea is, if anything, proof that Egan’s artistic sensitivities have continued along a relevant trajectory.
2014 was a year that most people were glad to see over. The Web delivered such a consistent barrage of immediate tragedy and horror, it was overwhelming. 2015 hasn’t started any better, unfortunately. It feels like the social media hangover is starting, when opening your Twitter feed is almost guaranteed to deliver news akin to the Book of Revelations. These types of headlines are nothing new, of course. For the last 30 years, this doomy narrative has been forged in mass media. It would be naive to think that there are no consequences to this – there is a turn of the screw in society and for the individuals within. Culture has been responding, with writers like Eugene Thacker and documentary makers such Adam Curtis.
And here we find Jape. The Chemical Sea is rife with malaise, albeit with a four to the floor beat. The songs have turned outwards, looking at the state of the world we live in. The complexity of modern existence, and our place within it, feels at the forefront of this album. Images of grey beaches like cathedrals are formed and questions are asked with the recurring theme of ‘what will we do when we’ve exhausted the world?’. There are of course bursts of hope, riffing on ideas of love guiding us true. But song titles such as ‘Love on the Crest of a Wave’ infer ideas of a crashing downfall being not too far away.
They’re weighty themes, but the album has a big and enjoyable sound. Egan is in full control of his sequenced and syncopated synthesisers, which is ultimately where the record falls down. In this week’s State interview, Egan says he wanted The Chemical Sea have more of a defined sound than his previous records and, to be fair, that’s what he’s achieved. Yet it would feel a more lasting endeavour if the songs rather than the synths had been allowed to speak. Vocals are buried under the instruments and reverb, making you wish for the heart achingly humble ‘Phil Lynott’. Then again, at least when the end of the world comes, we can dance to our doom.