Release Date: Aug 13, 2013
Record label: Mom & Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“The future of the galaxy depends on the Temples and Jagwar Ma records,” Noel Gallagher told NME last month. “If those two records are right, the imperial forces will be defeated.” No pressure, then. Luckily Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield were compiling ‘Howlin’ on the other side of the world in Sydney, unaware of the expectant gaze of a man of whose patronage Winterfield has said: “That’s ridiculous.
If you’re looking at a map of Earth, the chunk of land in the bottom right of the rectangular world has recently become the home for innovative and addicting psychedelic rock. And Sydney-based duo Jagwar Ma is one of its latest most-buzzed-about exports thanks to this, their debut LP. Drenched in echoed vocals and layered synth lines, Howlin maintains an incredibly optimistic, carefree tone.
Jagwar Ma's debut album, Howlin, takes the listener on a trip back through the alternative rock of the '90s, making stops along the way to delve into shoegaze, baggy dance jams, spaced-out psychedelic dream pop, bedroom electronic, and even the much maligned big beat sound. The genius move the duo makes is that when they come back from their trip they only brought back the good parts and none of the elements like "Funky Drummer" breakbeats or grunge guitars that would have dated the project. Instead, Howlin sounds both like a really, really good modern pop album and a brilliant update of the '90s which, had it been released in 1992, would have knocked some sense into groups like Happy Mondays and Chapterhouse.
Sometimes we spoil it for ourselves. On the strength of just a few solid tracks we can place new bands on perilously vertiginous pedestals, sucking the air from their lungs before they've even taken a breath. Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma's much vaunted collaboration, Jagwar Ma is a band that have been suffering from this lack of oxygen. Chatter doesn't amount to much if there's nothing substantial to back it up, Winterfield addressed this in a recent interview for Warhol's Children; 'I think hype can be dangerous if everyone is focusing on that and not actually the music.
Following the massive hype that surrounded the return of The Stone Roses last year, it was only a matter of time until a band in the same mould appeared. With their vast array of trippy effects and psychedelic sounds, Sydney duo Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield, better known as Jagwar Ma, are considered to be just that. Yet, while there are clear similarities with the Manchester four-piece, Jagwar Ma are much more than just revivalists.
Let’s take account of Madchester’s enduring images: a heavy-lidded Ian Brown moaning “I wanna be adored” but not sounding like he wants to be awake. Bez freaky-dancin' his way through the Happy Mondays' prime and not even being the most loutish guy in the group. The rumors that Shaun Ryder ditched a meeting with EMI to score heroin, which was referred to as "KFC" by the band.
Jagwar MaHowlin'[Marathon Artists; 2013]By Brendan Frank; August 26, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetGrowing up in Sydney, Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma were never in the environment that pushed or even asked for the layered, spongy psychedelics of their debut album. As they told Under the Radar earlier this summer: “There’s not much a culture here or a desire for really great sound… as long as you can hear the band and it’s loud, it’s fine. ” Given this, Howlin' sidesteps seemingly every pitfall that would have made it just another summer album.
In late ‘80s and early ‘90s England, the Madchester sound was at the forefront of British rock culture. Helmed by classic bands like the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, the bands in this scene combined psychedelia, funk, house music, and guitar rock in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of success. Of the era, The Stone Roses’ self titled debut album and the Happy Mondays’ Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches remain important and enduring documents.
Back at the tail end of 1980s Britain, things were getting loose. As the vise-like grip of Thatcherism tightened, the cultural reaction was antithetical: tent-sized flares, mind-altering chemicals, all-night raves, and skinny Manchester dudes with bowl cuts were all in vogue. Baggy, as unlikely as it seems, was a kind of non-protest protest against the political ideology of the day.
Jagwar Ma are two young guys from Sydney but their sound echoes the "Madchester" scene of the late 1980s. It's not an obvious era for revivalism: 30 years on, retrospection suggests that the acid-fuelled experience of Manchester's nightlife might have been a better thing than the acid-fuelled music playing in its clubs. These grooves are floppy-limbed, loosely propelled by basslines that sound like ones Ian Brown left behind under a pub table.
When Noel Gallagher told NME that “the future of the galaxy depends on… the Jagwar Ma record,” it would’ve been understandable if Gallagher’s hyperbole hurt more than helped the rising Australian trio. Thankfully, even Oasis-haters can find something to love in Howlin’, Jagwar Ma’s debut LP. Howlin’ takes the psychedelia of their countrymen Tame Impala on a trip to Manchester, UK circa 1990.
We revelled in the dusky haze of ‘The Throw’ and all its wooze-addled Madchester glory, and we threw our hands into the air for ‘Man I Need’, a tie-dyed psych-pop floorfiller. The Australian pairing of Jono Ma (Lost Valentinos/Foals) and Gabriel Winterfield (Ghostwood) has been causing a ’60s-laced electronic pop ruckus. It’s a distinct style that’s been maimed by psychedelia, pop and shoegaze; each one has left an indelible mark on their music.
A tired cliché it may be to describe anything originating Down Under as ‘sun-kissed’ and ‘laid back’, like our only exposure to Australian culture consists of lager advertisements and daytime soaps, but these expressions wouldn’t be anywhere near as over-used if it weren’t for the fact they ring so true. Because if ‘Howlin’, the debut long-player from dance-loving Aussies Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield, were a soap character, it’d probably be Brad from Neighbours circa 1992. But other than being a product of its geography – or at least the myopic view of it from British ears – ‘Howlin’ is a remarkable album in its own right.
For such an iconic scene, it's weird that the baggy/Madchester music scene hasn't spawned more of a direct sonic legacy. You can hear echoes of the music in many acts; a hint of something druggy or Balearic, or just a bog-standard re-appropriation of the music in its basest form - dance beats and a bendy bassline grafted on to an uninspired indie chugger. It doesn't help that most of the music hasn't aged well and sounds horrific out of context of the era.