Jakokoyak - Aerophlot
Owain Paciuszko 20/11/2010
Rhys Edwards (otherwise known as Jakokoyak) released his debut album in 2003 and in the same year won the Best New Talent award at Pop Factory, and Best Album at BBC Radio Cymru's music awards this is the long awaited follow up and any fears of the infamous sophomore slump is instantly dispelled on the gorgeous opening title track.
Slinky percussion, delicious strings, groovy bass, twinkling keyboards and Edwards' soft vocal which is somewhere between Steve Mason and Gruff Rhys, all allied perfectly to create an exotic and sumptuous slice of easygoing psychedelic folk. It builds excellently into a somewhat deflated finale, but sometimes easy ascension is the lazy man's route, instead Edwards pushes the fizzy synth line up and sings a nursery rhyme refrain of 'Do do-do do-do-do...' as the track oscilates towards its end, seguing sneakily into the dreamy instrumental Åmine with the kind of squelchy charm of The Avalanches.
Laika creates a beguiling and magical atmosphere with its twinking bells, ascending bass notes and reverberating guitars, the track gradually shifts into a little travelling song, which is apt as its title refers to a dog that became the first animal in orbit; and sonically it has a kind of sound quality akin to Mull Historical Society soundtracking The Clangers. Meanwhile there's the flavour of downtempo Beck on Superstar Girl, laidback steel guitars and sleepy harmonica intermingling with the traditional Jakokoyak synths, and you can help but feel a little weightless as Edwards sings 'Let's fly, let's fly together.'
After the ever so subtle instrumental 060606 comes the toe-tapping, sci-fi tinged tune Moscow 705, which continues Edwards' fascination with the Russian space programme (the track title refers to the postcode of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space). There's an eighties alternative synth-pop vibe to the tune, with its simple repeated guitar line, ambient atmospherics and optmistic piano lines. Edwards' despondent voice contrasts nicely with the chirpy piano and uptempo glitchy beat of Recovery, which evolves into bittersweet choruses layered with soothing female backing vocals and drifts off into jazzy flute asides with swirling, juddering synths and electronics a cherry on the cake.
Pyrpiat is a lengthy instrumental with the kind of easygoing beat that drives many of Jakokoyak's tunes, his alignment of shimmering electronica is consistently fascinating and he allows he ideas to evolve gradually and carefully. Here the track builds towards a glorious finale, with light airy piano notes in amongst glorious washes of synthy-strings and little bursts of electronic brass echoing in the ears. Meanwhile there's a flavour of Ian Brown guesting with Air on the baggy, swaggering and playful See Me Out its melody whistled in one ear and played on plinky keys in the other, all feeding off of a swaying bass line and stuttering percussion.
Whilst ever listenable sometimes a couple of the tracks seem like Jakokoyak-by-numbers, sure there's a lot to like about Arkhangelsk but there's a certain safety in its composition that makes it feel more like the seed of an idea than one fully formed; engine-like noise in the background conjures the image of preparing for take off, but the song never leaves the launchpad. Penultimate track Dada Love is an electro-tinged folk ballad, very similar to the work of Jape, with hopeful lyrics as Edwards' sings 'Out of the blue you came...' on the choruses. It drifts slumberously on waves of romantic, cooing vocals, and tenderly plucked acoustic guitars as the drums begin clattering and rolling chaotically in the background as if the whole song is about to explode into rays of glittering sunshine. Instead, it winds down eerily, the vocals enveloped by burbling electronic noise leaving the listener with the final track Anin a crackling, strangely sad little instrumental that closes the record on a decidely bittersweet and oddly spooky note.
Seven years on from his debut it's a shame that it's taken so long for this record (completed in 2008) to be released, but that's not to say it isn't worth it. This is an absolutely gorgeous album, both achingly sad and defiantly optimistic with a poignant, nostalgic streak running through all its tracks. Here's hoping the wait won't be as long for the next record...