PRINT September 1997


The Sea and Cake

Released after more than a year-long recording hiatus, The Sea and Cake’s latest effort, The Fawn, is a small masterpiece of grooviness, at once beautiful, happy, and slightly silly. Oozing, sliding, and burbling out of your speakers, it’s a kind of sonic equivalent to lava-lamp blobs. Which is not to imply that The Fawn or The Sea and Cake are a purely camp experience; actually, you get the sense that the guys enjoy this stuff in a truly genuine way, and you can too.

The Sea and Cake first got started in the fall of 1993, at a time when Chicago music was dominated by two forces—an alterna-rock front (Smashing Pumpkins, et al.) and various WaxTrax bands (almost everybody Al Jorgensen produced). But bubbling just beneath the surface was a nascent scene of committed pop aficionados—people with more soul than Sabbath in their album collections. Among them were onetime members of Shrimp Boat (guitarist and vocalist Sam Prekop, bassist Eric Claridge) and former Coctails keyboard player and guitarist Archer Prewitt who got together with percussionist/producer John McEntire (who plays drums for like-minded bands Tortoise, Gastr del Sol, and Red Krayola) to produce a different kind of pop transcendence.

Leaving guitar-heavy instrumental attack and angst-ridden vocals behind, The Sea and Cake blend jazzy melodies and bebop interplay, bossa nova cool and cocktail-nation-synthesizer noodling into elegantly crafted pop tunes. On The Fawn’s “There You Are,” you get a stripped-down, synth, old-style soul groove, perfect for doing all the things you currently do to, say, Marvin Gaye or Jobim. To accompany it, Prekop provides patented indie-style lyrics (slurred and impressionistic, and occasionally unintelligible), his only break with that tradition a deadpan falsetto, managing to summon up the spirit of Al Green (that falsetto) and Stephen Malkmus (tantalizing gibberish) simultaneously. Lest you think they’re getting too smart for their (or your) own good, on the first track they remind you that it’s a “sporting life” after all. Then they sprinkle their myriad influences with enough “lalala’s” to make sure you don't forget what fun is all about.