There’s beauty in simplicity, in life and in music, and the truth of this is apparent on Cake on Cake’s I Guess I Was Daydreaming. With a population of 15 tunes spanning just over 36 minutes, I Guess I Was Daydreaming features mood music that is spare and charming. If the album could be compared to a city, it would be a small town where the townspeople know each other in a comfortable, intimate way, where the air is light, the streets are quiet, and the townspeople go about their routines like clockwork. Cake on Cake is the name of the band, but the “band” consists of Helena Sundin, often described as a “one-woman Swedish orchestra”. In addition to being a classically trained pianist, cellist, and vocalist before she started Cake on Cake in 2004, Ms. Sundin has learned to play more than 20 instruments. On I guess I Was Dreaming, she handles almost all the instrument duties, including: organ, Rhodes, clavinet, melodica, guitar, metallophone, xylophone, recorder flute, tamborine, hand-drum, claves, bells, and triangle.
Joined by Andreas Gabrielsson (bass), Hakan Persson (steel-pan), and Alex Rayman (electric guitar), the collection rewards your love for repetition, round singing, and layered vocals that riff, harmonize, and often become instruments in their own right. On the negative side, most of the songs sound alike, with the tropical vibe of “Slowly, Slowly” and the heavier percussion elements in “Sparrow Parade” being the exceptions. As a result, the somber monotony of sound and style tends to monopolize the release, weighing it down with more melancholy than whimsy. As for the name of the band, that’s an interesting story. Ms. Sundin says it started when she was an art student, trying to translate a Swedish phrase into English to communicate her thoughts on one of her own pieces to her Icelandic professor. In English, the Swedish phrase works out to be “cake on cake”, which indicates that something is, ironically, just too much or excessive.