erasing clouds

The Sea and Cake, Oui (Thrill Jockey)

reviewed by Jay Peterson

To tell god's honest truth I am a pretentious music snob. Family and friends tell me so. I listen to pretentious radio stations and listen to music with hip cover art that's more of an experiment in abstract art than anything else. The CDs themselves are often monochromatic, either black or white with little or no labeling to lay testament as to what is within. I like to think of them as my little spinning gems of musical minimalism, which I can only suspect is the desired effect. Or the CDs are explosions of color and strange collages like they were made by a first year art student on crack. One theme does hold true is that it's always difficult to understand what music is within from looking at the CDs. I often times think about just how silly I must seem being the only person who spends time listening to music that only five other people listen to in the whole world. If I was smart I would just throw it all away and pick up a safe music habit, like rap or something, so I could actually play my music with other people in the car without them going "What the hell is this?" and then frowning and cursing as they rip the CD from the stereo. But like a heroin addict in the throes of a new addiction I happily buy up all the pretentious music that I can find and inject it right into my ears because it soothes something deep in my soul. All I can say is that I blame one band and one band only for this pretentious music habit that I have been burdened with, Chicago based, The Sea and Cake.

From the first time that I listened to a Sea and Cake album I knew that it was infectious and oh so snobby, but in a good way. It was something I could really sink my teeth into. The attenuated guitar of Archer Prewitt coupled with the syrupy and almost sickening vocals of Sam Prekop along with a fantastically mellow electronic sound make this band one to really pay attention to. This band makes no attempt to hide its too hip attitude and cool stylings that go hand in hand with the other band on the Thrill Jockey label, Tortoise and fall right in line with what bands like Luna bring to the musical table. The Sea and Cake make music that is much like Stereolab's in that it is "Dance music for people who don't dance," or in other words, for nerds like me! And that is pretentiousness at its finest!

Their newest release and the first in three years, Oui shows some reserve from their earlier works. While not skipping on production they worked a Latin feel into the album with a bosa nova sound just faintly touching the edges of the songs which shows up especially on "Midtown" and "Two Dolphins" while still keeping the sound that makes them so unique while showing new growth as well. Oui does not disappoint in doing the one thing that I depend on The Sea and Cake for: to produce an album that is entirely listenable from beginning to end with no throwaway tracks. You just put this puppy in the turntable and relax.

This most recent album is great in and of itself but it is only a start to what the Sea and Cake can offer for those who seek further listening pleasure. Alas, it is a quest not for the faint of heart since their albums can be hard to find. But if you really want a great album that blew me away get Nassau, their 1995 release with a little statue on the cover. Its funkier and grungier than their more recent releases, with the exception of "Parasol" and "The world is against You," which are their two best songs to date. But you make up your own mind, just make sure your nose doesn't turn up in a snobbish fashion and shun other music for The Sea and Cake, I don't care since I am off listening to Snoop Dogg in a vain attempt to go cold turkey.

Issue 4, January 2001 | next article

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