Review: Jungle – <i>Jungle</i>

Jungle are yet another anonymous duo, but the music they makes cultivates little mystery. The pair—currently known only by their first names, Josh and Tom—wield their influences plainly: Parliament’s psychedelic funk, the Beach Boys’ erudite pop songwriting, and a bit of Curtis Mayfield’s sunny soul all surface in the band’s accessible sound. There are few unexpected turns when it comes to the band’s songwriting—if you’ve heard Jungle’s debut EP for XL, Busy Earnin’, you’ll know what’s in store on their debut self-titled LP.

All three tracks from Busy Earnin’—“Busy Earnin’,” “The Heat,” and “Platoon”—reappear on Jungle. They share a few distinguishing qualities, like punchy drums, multi-layered and high-pitched vocals, wah-wah guitar riffs, and simple lyrics. The full length doesn’t offer much more range, just nine more tracks in a similar style—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Jungle writes rock-solid pop songs with a danceable foundation. The drawback is that it can feel unadventurous or plain at times, especially when said Josh or Tom rely on lyrical clichés, as is the case on “Lucky I Got What I Want.” While the track sports a few left-field leanings, like a stuttering kick drum and synth pads that waver drunkenly, it’s also equipped with the hackneyed (and somewhat ironic) hook: “Don’t you forget about me.”

That said, there are a few vaguely experimental moments on Jungle; on “Drops,” for example, the singer takes on a James Blake-like croon over a watery, clicking downtempo rhythm.  “Smoking Pixels” is easily the weirdest track on an otherwise straightforward and accessible pop-funk album. It’s a two-minute sketch that opens with a repetitive hooting sound and baleful whistling reminiscent of gun dual songs from Spaghetti Western films. Instead of unfurling into an epic acoustic jam, “Smoking Pixels” remains understated and adopts a plodding stomp to support the odd instrumental moans. It hardly seems to go anywhere, but its aimlessness frees the track from traditional song structures and allows for a degree of creative freedom that the band doesn’t approach anywhere else on Jungle. ~

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Best of #EBfestival2014 – in pictures

Two is a crowd, three is a party, thousands is a festival. Thanks to everyone who came along so far—here’s our recap of the first three EB festivals this year. Photos by: You. (If you want to be included in the next one, use #EBfestival2014 when uploading your pics to Instagram)

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Live Report: Electronic Beats Festival Bratislava 2014

Last night Electronic Beats Festival rolled into Bratislava with Four Tet, Daphni, Jungle and I Break Horses. How did it go down? We were down the front to find out. Photos by Eduard Meltzer.

Entering the sold-out Refinery Gallery concert hall, a refurbished oil refinery on the vast outskirts of Slovakia’s capital after a nine hour train ride from Berlin felt like an inspiring culture clash. Traveling old school with the Hungarian Eurocity complete with freshly cooked goulash and chilled Krusovice lager on one of Europe’s greatest train routes is a nostalgic, calming experience. In that sense it was the perfect antithesis to witnessing UK’s newest wunderkinder Jungle processing funk, krautrock and pop into a futuristic conglomerate. Their 50-minute set was short, sweet and kicking. After their intense show, we met J and T, the two Londoners forming the groups’ musical epicenter backstage for a chat. “We are in the midst of the biggest revolution since the French one. Our brain structure changes as we are incorporating all the digital enhancements that actually allow us to do the music we do. We can record at home, we can film videos, click a button and share them – and immediately whatever we do is out there in the world,” says J. “You could easily track our real names on the net, but it’s not about us. It’s about music and how it touches and interacts with real people,” adds T. That’s why Jungle actually give selected interviews (“because we like to talk to people!,” says T) but do not allow any portraits taken of them. They do not play masked, but they want to keep it anonymous. Or guerilla.

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The next Englishman of the night, who had decided not to allow any photos or recordings of his set, had yet another contrast in store for us. Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet took to the stage subdued in a bare minimum of lighting, gradually letting his aggregate of nervous percussive loops and warm synths rise and fall in and out of a stripped, driving groove. Over the next one and a half hours, he shifted from jungle breakbeats to four to the floor kickdrums and back into loopy ambient seamlessly.

Unlike Four Tet with whom we would have loved to chat for a moment (but he turned down all interview requests whatsoever), Dan Snaith aka Caribou aka Daphni was available for a barside conversation at the venue’s catering area: “I use my different monikers mainly to not confuse my audiences. When I play as Caribou, I play with my band. And as Daphni, I solely DJ. But when it comes to writing and recording music, I sometimes don’t necessarily know for which of the aliases a track might end up. If a piece I am working on evolves into a song it might be something for the Caribou band. As a DJ I love to play my own beats and that’s why many of the Daphni tracks actually have a certain functionality to them. There is nothing bad about people dancing. I embrace that kind of functionality.”

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As a matter of fact Daphni prove his statement right in his ambitious – yet functional – set that concluded the night, eclectically mixing his own tracks with an insane blend of musical genres until 3am. In our chat, he had mentioned that the production process of a Daphni track sometimes resembles the dynamic of a DJ set: “I will start with one idea and then bring in a sample, or a synth line, that totally differs from the original direction the track had.” Add Dan Snaith’s fast-paced mixing to that equation and you get an unpredictable DJ set – like tonight’s – where you are rarely aware of the transitions between single tracks, creating a sort of semi-conscious wormhole of dance music, a three dimensional radix of sound. Which, come to think about it, is not surprising given he has received a doctorate in mathematics in 2005.

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Stepping out into the cold fresh night afterwards, all the impressions gathered in one day feel surreal. And we should not forget I Break Horses, the opening act, who had picked us up from our journey with their eerie shoegaze-pop. Maria Lindén’s singing was at times vocal, at times one of the instruments playing introverted melodies that unravelled in the dark blue light of their gloomy stage set-up.

Judging from the crowds’ extremely positive reaction, Bratislava experienced the strongest line-up of this Spring seasons Electronic Beats festivals so far – a notion shared by us.

 

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Electronic Beats Festival Bratislava 2014: Today’s the day!

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UPDATE: We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets to some very lucky people—check our Facebook page for details The giveaway is now closed—thanks for participating!

 

We’ve already given you a taster for what’s to come in EB’s Spring Festival season, and we’re happy to indulge your appetite for great music with each new announcement. So start salivating, because here’s what we’re bringing to Slovakia!

Headlining the evening is none other than Four Tet, whose seventh album Beautiful Rewind charted many a year’s best list in 2013. The UK musician’s recent collaboration with Jamie XX, a beautifully angelic and compelling house cut, has been making even more waves and his psychedelia-tinged explorations into the roots of UK bass and dance music have really been on another level lately. Expect to be moved on the dancefloor, in both body and mind.

Caribou‘s Dan Snaith will be joining us as well under his musical alias Daphni, along with the modular synth that made his album Jiaolong so ear-grabbing. We’re always excited when we see him play; it’s like watching a conductor work weird magic, and there’s always an element of surprise. “If tomorrow I gave up Caribou and started making death metal, I don’t think anybody would say, ‘Dan Snaith is going against his roots!’”, he told us in our EB Magazine interview. “I definitely don’t feel any allegiance to anything.” Here’s hoping he brings his bag of audio tricks along!

Our special guests for the evening will be Jungle, the secretive UK duo who rose to prominence last year with their pitch-perfect blend of musical influence. Evoking elements of disco, soul, and electrofunk, T and J (the only names they’ve released for public consumption) have a knack not only for infectious dance grooves, but also for showcasing unusual talent. They set eyes on fire with their videos for “The Heat”, which featured rollerblading duo High Rollaz, and blew minds by introducing us to six-year old Bgirl Terra, whose dance skills dominate “Platoon”. What will they bring to the stage at EB Fest? You’ll just have to show up and see!

Sweden is well-known for loving clean, minimal looks; it’s no wonder that even their shoegaze bands prefer electronics over guitars. Stockholm duo I Break Horses took their work to a new area of hauntological pop with their new record Chiaroscuro, which should be the perfect swoon-worthy opening note for the evening. Between bands, Slovakian musician and Gergaz label owner Jimmy Pe will be spinning all night to keep your ears vibrating.

Tickets can be purchased through our EB Radio and Video mobile apps, and locally through Predpedaj. See you there! ~

 

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