From the moment London outfit Jungle surfaced, it was clear they knew how to drop bombs. Three big singles – including the ‘Jezahel’-meets-‘Dear Science’ trumpet sally of ‘Busy Earnin’’ (video below) – cemented the consensus that this mysterious group could seize shards of limelight whenever they fancied.
Question is: can they maintain this across an album? Is Jungle’s modern vision – of smoky disco, short breath vocals, smooth self-sampling and funk/soul groove farming – all hustle and no muscle? Or do they have a panoramic creative vision that could power a congruous album with all sorts of gears, springs and ratchets?
Well, aside from those three power singles, the more minimal moments of Jungle are actually their most impressive. ‘Drops’, a former B-side, is a velvety love song, with a simple beat, falsetto hooks, cosmic synths and the inexplicably effective use of a creaking door field recording.
Likewise, ‘Son Of A Gun’ and ‘Accelerate’ embrace this darker, lethargic funk sound, with keys and electric guitar wrestling in melodic matrimony, amidst pleasingly warped production. And ‘Julia’ is just a stonewall soul stonker worthy of joining the power three.
When you see Jungle live, it takes very little provocation for them to extend their songs into euphoric, funk-laden, instrumental prang-outs that mesmerise your mind’s eye. Unfortunately, the album lacks a little of that psychedelic deviation, and instead chooses to quite politely proffer 11 great and concise songs, with a whistling instrumental mid-point.
So, while you might regularly experience groove gratification, you won’t exactly light a candle and teleport to P-Funk’s Mothership. Which is a shame, because Jungle are definitely capable of that.
Words: Joe Zadeh
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