Sea and Cake + Golden Retriever at Empty Bottle | Review and photos
The Sea and Cake is one of those Chicago bands that just keeps on going, in much the same fashion as contemporaries like Tortoise, Califone and Eleventh Dream Day. Maintaining a steady stream of releases and a somewhat sporadic touring schedule, they're a group that has the tendency to turn up when it's least expected. Such was the case at Tuesday night's one-off performance at the Empty Bottle, which found the band reawakening in front of an audience of supporters.
A bellowing set from Portland-based bass clarinet and synthesizer duo Golden Retriever kicked the night off. Contrasting thunderous low-end tones with twinkling electronic embellishments, the twosome's droning, atmospheric compositions acted as a counterpoint to their Thrill Jockey labelmates' comparatively breezy tunes.
Easing into performance which reached all the way back to material from their 1994 debut, the Sea and Cake indulged in their patently jazz-influenced brand of indie rock. Referencing handwritten lyrics scrawled on giant notecards, Sam Prekop quickly found his stride, delivering each syllable in his characteristically effortless manner. With each successive song providing subtle variations of John McEntire's impeccable rhythms matched with Archer Prewitt's precise riffs, the group's methodical tendencies never faltered.
Clever instrumental variations lent the set a sense of diversity, all without straying from the confines of the band's distinctive style. Whether it was the undulating bass and intertwining guitars of "Exact To Me" or the bouncing chords of "Up On The North Shore," each track seemed at once differentiated and intrinsically connected to the last. Elsewhere in the set, the expansive "Inn Keeping" served as a deconstruction of the group's various components, giving each player a moment in the spotlight before resolving itself. While it was unclear whether the concert indicated the beginnings of a new recording cycle or merely a return to the stage, the Sea and Cake left everyone in attendance craving another slice.