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Jungle “Jungle” – Album Review

XL Recordings (2014)

Adding to the recent wave of acts shrouded in mystery, enigmatic retro-futuristic soul duo Jungle has had everyone speculating about their identity over the past twelve months, thanks to a series of inventive choreography-based promos which have handed over the spotlight to breakdancing six-year-olds and urban roller-skaters.

The eventual reveal that the pair weren’t Daft Punk, Justice or any other French electro wizards, but in fact two former members of Britpop also-rans Born Blonde, may have been slightly underwhelming. But unlike fellow video specialists OK Go, who often appear to focus their energy more on their viral-friendly dance routines than their actual music, Tom McFarland and Joshua Lloyd-Watson’s self-titled debut album is anything but.

Indeed, despite the wave of expectation surrounding Jungle, the artists once known as simply J and T haven’t buckled under the pressure and instead have impressively delivered one of this year’s most perfect summer records thanks to a groove-laden melting pot of psychedelia, indie-disco, electro-soul, jazz and old-school funk that’s almost impossible not to dance along to.

The singles are undoubtedly the high point, from the falsetto-led space-funk of opener “The Heat” to the New Order-esque basslines and Studio 54 grooves of “Platoon,” to possibly the slinkiest reflection on the credit crunch ever recorded, “Busy Earnin’,” a sublime slice of old-school soul featuring a chirruping brass hook which sounds like it could have been lifted from a long-lost Stax classic.

But there are plenty of gems elsewhere. The Ennio Morricone-esque whistling hooks and atmospheric guitar twangs ensure that “Smoking Pixels” is one of those rare interludes that actually adds something to a record, rather than serving as mere filler. The velvety smooth “Drops” evokes the socially conscious soul of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, while “Lemonade Lake” brings the party to a surprisingly emotional close with its woozy synth-led meditation on heartbreak.

The meandering funk of “Son Of A Gun,” which is not so much laid-back but downright lethargic, and the Afrobeat-lite “Crumbler,” not to mention the slightly samey production, mean that Jungle isn’t quite the bona-fide classic that everyone had hoped for. But it’s still a triumphant start from a band who are unlikely to remain anonymous for much longer.

4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music, Featured


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