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15th September 2014

Album: Jungle – Jungle

Dinesh Mattu reviews the self-titled album by mysterious experimental disco duo Jungle

Released July 14

XL Recordings


Emerging in the summer of 2013, shrouded in an aura of mystique, producers by the names of ‘J’ and ‘T’ garnered public attention through well choreographed and cleanly directed videos without revealing a lot much more than their collective’s name: Jungle. An outfit so obsessed with cleverly hiding themselves amongst the matrix of the internet, practically rendering themselves unsearchable, yet having the audacity to sell out shows across Europe and the US.

The buzz around these guys was intriguing. Promising singles and a bold name was all we had to go by until it came to ear that J and T were indeed Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, a production duo from West London. A music video for their single ‘The Heat’ hit the internet in mid-October; a rollerskating, tracksuit-laden duo was my first visual impression of these guys, smoothly cut and brilliantly scored, this production had a soulful and essential summertime feel, a track simply made to make you dance; just like the pair in the video (minus the green shellsuit, perhaps).

What followed in the coming months was more mystery and intrigue, further shows across the world revealed a little more about them, but not enough to figure them out completely. After supporting Haim on a handful of dates on the European leg of their ‘Days Are Gone’ tour, these guys were growing into one of the most talked about bands in Britain.

Fast-forward to summer 2014 and Jungle have put together an LP, filled with experimental percussion, airy falsetto and all manner of psychedelic melodies, echoing their early singles. Twinned with the visuals, this album is a respectful yet slightly progressive throwback to the essence of the 70s; a nice groovy dose of nostalgia filled with a few bird calls and strange rustlings; a disco in a rainforest, almost. There’s plenty of substance behind the bravado of the impeccably choreographed early videos of singles ‘Platoon,’ ‘The Heat’ and ‘Busy Earnin’’. Smooth bass lines and memorable choruses, flickering weird and wonderful noises, and digitally layered percussion leave a welcome impression on the audience.

The strange collection of tropical noises and mechanical beats throughout the album breathe a new life into ‘modern soul,’ most notably on the detached-feeling ‘Drops.’ Each finger click gives a measured pulse to the slow tempo, emulating dew dripping off the leaf of a melancholy plant into a dusky puddle. Surrounded with grand crescendos and intense synths, you’d be right to think that there’s a lot going on in this seemingly arbitrary song, almost too much for it to work. However, the melange is formulated, measured; in terms of production, it is one of the highlights of the album. It stands out because it is a little sorrowful, sitting more-or-less slap-bang in the middle of the record it gives a feeling of grief and dejection, to an otherwise lively album, “I’ve been loving you too long,” echo the two despondent voices.

The wistful theme continues in the final three tracks; ‘Son of a Gun,’ ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’ and ‘Lemonade Lake’. They give the climax an ambient but fairly solemn feel to what in most-part is an upbeat, dancefloor-ready summer album. The record melodically bobs along at a cruising pace quite often unknowingly becoming one big falsetto, the vocals becoming fairly repetitive by the end. It is undoubtedly crafted, and songs such as ‘Time’ have soundtracked summer barbeques and will accentuate DJ sets over the coming year, however it just isn’t authentic enough to be called an outright disco album, there’s something missing. It’s experimental, it’s funky, it is soul for the Disclosure generation. I find it a polished debut with some promising singles; the trouble is that these are mostly the singles we’ve already heard. Individually the songs excel, but on a whole the album falls a little short.

The duo exercise their production muscles on the latter songs especially, perhaps in order to give the listener a feel for their skills repertoire. Their detailed and artistic approach to the album is astute, even if the music does not completely fulfil my expectations. Jungle have cleverly managed to pick out a strategy in their album campaign, carefully selecting their most radio friendly singles to create visuals for, amassing around 5 million YouTube views in just under a year. Ultimately, both fans of electronic music and hardcore soul fans will pick it apart and detail all the shortfalls. What we’re left with is something in between, not popular enough to be Pop and not disco-y enough to be Disco. Having piqued our interest with their spectacular imagery, perhaps Dance is the next best box to put this record in. You may have to dig out your Run DMC shellsuits; after all, who wouldn’t want to imitate our b-boying friends on our summer dancefloors?

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