Having created something of viral-media monster last year with their dangerously infectious releases ‘Platoon’ and ‘Busy Earnin’,’ Jungle, until fairly recently, have been shrouded in a sort of psuedo-funkadelic mysteriousness. The West London duo, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, despite any early anonymity, are fast becoming known for creating the kind of sound that eschews the concrete and dreary landscapes of their hometown in favour of the bright lights and feverish energy of a futuristic Studio 54. No mean feat, but there is something to be said in the twosome, being the central driving force behind the compositional and creative duties, expanding to a seven piece “collective,” to lend an air of excitement and an ensemble camaraderie to their self titled debut LP.
And, as debut albums go, ‘Jungle’ is one that builds confidently on the earlier success and sonic textures of those novel video releases. Tracks like ‘The Heat,’ ‘Busy Earnin’ and ‘Time’ feel positively funky; falsetto vocal lines dance and flit between neo-soul melodies awash with saturated synthesisers and plucky string sections. The percussion conveys insistency and confidence, allowing for very danceable and uncomplicated grooves reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s electronic forays and Bootsy Collins’s rhythmic bass lines. If this debut full-length is Jungle’s mission statement, then it is one that demands attention as well as compelling the listener to get up to, ultimately, get down.
There are quieter moments too though that make good use of the vocal harmonies previously used as disco dance floor weapons. ‘Drops’ for instance slows things down a bit to inform us of the kind of soulful undercurrent that the duo are able to construct so elegantly upon. The minor chord progression is flourished with bubbling and delicate electronic horn sounds whilst the rhythm has a soft swing that wouldn’t sound out of place in an underground Detroit motown club circa 1970; every patron clicking their fingers along. ‘Crumbler’ too makes use of a slower, more groove focused sound that layers choppy guitar hooks and a delicate breakbeat with disco-siren samples that are slowed to an almost halt. It’s deep and smooth and a great example of what Jungle can do when they are feeling a bit more reflective.
That being said, this is a debut that tells us what Jungle do very well, but, what they do here, at times feels like they can’t do anything else. The duo are the new directors of the board, and this LP is their first big meeting. The points they raise with tracks like ‘The Heat,’ ‘Time’ or ‘Crumbler’ are exciting and promise big things in terms of future success, but, the elements at play throughout the album as a whole sometimes feel like reiterations and, unfortunately, on occasion may leave the listeners a little less than enthusiastic. Still, this is a strong debut even if it does suffer from a bit repetitiveness from time to time (most debuts do) and there should be more than enough to keep the shareholders moving and grooving. In short: Invest!