Jake Bell: Synjase


By Brad Engler

On his debut release Synjasé, Jake Bell completely surrounds himself with electronic beats and ambient noise, then he lets his guitar wiggle its way through the whole mess and come out the other side.

The album has a real fresh feeling to it. It’s filled with great sounds, samples, and the guitar “acrobatics” of Jake Bell, (as they are referred to in the liner notes more than once). Jake Bell can definitely play the guitar, and acrobatic would be a fairly accurate way of describing his style. It never seems to get dull, and jumps from weird to sensible to sparse at times, without making the transitions noticeable.

The electronic and guitar based percussion sounds on this album are definitely cool. The beats can be happy, driving, or downright harsh. This allows the album to range in tone from that of the early ‘80s, straight through to the techno of today.

Bell’s standard guitar tone and style is almost Pink Floydian. He has plenty of great ways of expressing himself through his clear guitar sounds, and he proves that he can go so much further with a little help from his electronic equipment. The guitar work is reminiscent of many things, ranging from the previously mentioned Pink Floyd and ‘80s new wave to mid-‘90s U2 to present-day Wilco. It’s an eclectic mix, with a whole lot of emphasis on keeping the guitars as spacey as possible, without drifting into endless cycles of noise. It works.

The album is around 47 minutes of instrumental music. It’s edgy, poppy, and continually interesting, if not always great. It’s mostly upbeat, but acquires an introspective feel as it slows towards the end. The final track, “Guitar-O-Drum,” hits a medium rock groove and holds for a solid three minutes, much shorter than the average track length. This track in particular jacks the album up from a lower position into semi-necessary status for those of you who are into semi-electronic/ambient music. It and the rest of the tracks make this album worth a listen for anyone who likes things that are just plain interesting.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/belljake-synjase/