Jape’s ‘Ritual’ is an album with so much content nestled in it’s lush branches it’s meaning keeps shifting as the wind blows. Melding acoustic and electronic music making, swinging from heartfelt soul searching to black humour, Jape has an amazing writerly lyrical touch, conjuring imagery of human heads, graveyards, apples, plums and petrified forests.
Jape is Dubliner Richie Egan, from the streets of it’s Crumlim district - Morrisey’s familial homeland and muse to its other famous son, playwright Brendan Behan. Jape’s contribution to the neighbourhood’s cultural output shines as brightly lyrically as it does melodically; it’s filled with pop, word play, puns and holy couplets.
“Dubliners are concerned with words and philosophy. In any pub in Dublin you can have a conversation that switches from something deep to something funny in a second.” There’s nothing parochial about the music though, no commodified ‘Irishness’. Richie produced the album in his bedroom plugged into the international language of electronic music - whether that’s minimal techno or hip hop. A younger Jape was (and still is) the bassist in a hardcore band called The Redneck Manifesto, with whom he toured America and Europe twice. Feeling the attraction of the sampler, synth and sequencer he splintered off with the band’s guitarist Matty (AKA producer Son Green) to finish an album of more personal pop songs. As well as contributing guitars Matty creates the artwork and videos that realise the Jape mood with his girlfriend Emelie. Together they form the creative duo m&e, go straight to youtube to see their inspired fruit-flinging video for former Jape single ‘Floating’.
‘Christopher & Anthony’ started life on Richie’s AKAI MPC sampler, with some toms looped and the bass guitar part written first. It’s a mediation on identity and human names, the titular characters being Christian saints. “Some dude thought it was about The Sopranos. I love that idea” says Richie, whose album is filled with phrases and words that mean two thing at once and different things to different people. He wants to let the listener find the meaning.
On the swaggering stomp of ‘I Was A Man’ the lyrics riff on the title. One of Jape’s key influences is Smog AKA Bill Callahan - whose gallows humour struck a deep chord.
“On ‘Replays’ I consciously had lyrics that were bigging myself up as no one does that apart from in hip hop” says Richie. Listen carefully and you can hear the boom bap drum beat underpinning the song, while hip hop references underpin his version of MC braggadocio. “I work harder than anyone else I know.../I better dancer you’re never going to find/ my dick is long I hope that you don’t mind”.
‘Graveyard’ started as an eerie otherworldly synth riff, shimmering and haunted. Ostensibly the tale of sex in a graveyard, Richie packs in a spiritual double-entendre “It’s a short short distance from the nipple to the soil”.
‘Phil Lynott’ is a dedication to the late, great Irish rock hero who appeared to Egan in the form of a lunar eclipse during a Mastodon gig. The song somehow manages to channel whiskey-warm spirit of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. “Phil Lynott is from the same streets in Dublin we’re from. You see old footage of him and you ‘get’ him straight away. Every taxi driver in Dublin has a story about him.” ‘Streetwise’ has a lyric looking back on the stupid scraps of childhood - “we smoked a tea bag to see what would happen” - before veering off into a techno-trance outro.
‘At The Heart Of All This Strangeness’ creates a dizzy landscape of shifting metaphysical meaning - written on holiday in the unworldly natural wonder of Croatian islands. “I write to make sense of things. If you consider being a human, the more you think about it the crazier it gets. It’s a weird place that the songs come from.”
‘Apple In An Orchard’ has one of the most rock feels on the album, with Richie and Matty changing it all the time live; it’s currently going through a shoe-gaze phase. Rock and hardcore in particular is a big part of Richie’s musical DNA. It was hardcore bands from Dublin (like Jack Beast) self-releasing music without mainstream approval that inspired him to start his music.
On ‘Strike Me Down’ Richie sampled his own voice and played it back at different pitches to provide strange harmonious textures.
‘Nothing Last’s Forever’ opens with a jumble of sampled ‘nothing’s from recorded history. With it’s lush vocoder it journeys through space like Air and brings the album to a close, a final word on it’s themes without coming to a conclusion. “I am trying to write a song/ that we can both believe in/ I am still trying” might be the album’s epitaph.
Jape is a massive new talent. You could throw out a litany of names he compares to; Beck’s slackadelia, Metronomy’s wonky bedroom production, Slick Rick’s machismo. The fact is ‘Ritual’ is one of those rare albums that’s created it’s own universe.
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