Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Jungle are that rare type of group that already possess the rock solid musical knowhow alongside the resourcefulness that usually comes from the exuberance of youth; maybe it's because the UK duo wear their influences so vibrantly on their sleeves. After the success of their first three singles ("The Heat," "Platoon" and "Busy Earnin'"), Jungle retain that unbridled mix of funk, post punk and techno on their self-titled debut LP. Mixing warbly bass lines with angular rhythms, breezy atmospherics and an eternal falsetto, these 12 tracks come off both strikingly original and familiar.
Every summer there's an album that exudes hot, hot summertime at its height. If 2013's was Random Access Memories, my nomination for 2014 is the self-titled debut from West London duo Jungle. Nothing on it will dominate radio like Get Lucky, but you can still practically feel the heat rising off the pavement when you press play. Jungle's core members, childhood best friends Josh and Tom, make well-balanced dance tunes - lush, but with plenty of breathing space between slow builds and feverish climaxes.
Hype can be an intoxicating thing. But it can also be toxic. Take a look at the still-nascent career arc of Toronto R&B singer the Weeknd. In 2010, the artist (whose real name, we now know, is Abel Tesfaye) posted three songs on YouTube, which got immediate support from fellow Torontonian Drake, and effusive praise from New York Times critic Jon Caramanica by month’s end.
Naming their outfit after an entirely unrelated genre was never going to optimise Jungle's search engine results. But this tactic fits with the electronic duo's initial reluctance to reveal themselves. Now we know they're two white guys from west London and that their debut album is as classy and accomplished a dose of aerated disco-funk as their early releases (Platoon, Busy Earnin') suggested.
The sirens, field recordings and distant yelps that form a minor part of Jungle’s debut album are just as important as the falsettoed funk that defines the London band’s sound. This first work is immesurably calculated, a record made by two guys intent on conquering the charts. It’s music with a structure, a purpose. Those choruses need to come in before the 1 minute mark.
Jungle strutted from the internet shrouded in a very modern mystery, two enigmas called J and T hidden among crowds of retro-futurist fashionistas in their publicity shots and playing shows at London’s Village Underground deep in shadow. They expensively mimicked viral videos with their clips for ‘Platoon’ and ‘The Heat’ featuring breakdancing kids and synchronised rollerskaters and their music merged the cool and the naff with a cult-like panache: Prince, The Bee Gees, The xx, Bon Iver, Portishead, Scissor Sisters, krautrock, Curtis Mayfield, ELO, P-Funk, MGMT psychedelia, Junior Senior, Snoop Dogg, Disclosure, Tron. Most of all, they represented the internet’s Utopian fantasy of a culture discovered and driven by the plugged-in masses, the conceit that you can make something brilliant, sneak it quietly online with zero publicity and millions will instantly descend upon it like swarms of piranha to a bloody sack of clickbait.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Jungle are pretty much a testament to the power of the internet and all us savvy lot who scour the depths in search of the Atlantis of proper cracking tunes. They're a band that could only have been created now, oozing whatever it is Generation Y oozes (probably double mocha lattes with two pumps of caramel syrup or something), that managed to utilise social media and the virality of a really well-crafted music video; OK Go but with good songs to accompany the cool videos.
The lead-up to U.K. indie/neo-funk act Jungle's self-titled debut album was one of highly calculated mystery. The band came out of the ether first in the form of several videos featuring mostly dancers but no bandmembers. Stills from these videos were subsequently used as press photos and the membership of the band was kept almost entirely anonymous.
At times Jungle have felt like an enigma wrapped in a riddle. The elusive British duo—whose LP will surely be counted amongst the year's most anticipated releases—manage to generate waves of hype on little more than a handful of catchy tunes, a series of eminently clickable videos, and a thin veil of anonymity; they build a solid foundation distanced from the cult of personality. Of course, if you've scratched the surface then you'll have discovered that the pair are in fact Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland—previously of Born Blonde—returned from the indie-pop wilderness with an extended cadre of musicians and an infectious line in killer melodies.
In the summer of 2013, an anonymous UK production duo only known by the initials of J and T released a 7" under the name of Jungle. From this side of the Atlantic, there was a bit of an eye roll: anonymous Brits who are taken with the sound of pirate radio jungle rendered back when they were just weens? But rather than follow in the lineage of the likes of Zomby, Burial, and the like, the video for that first single “Platoon” (featuring Ellen’s favorite B-girl) revealed that Jungle weren’t early '90’s ‘ardcore enthusiasts as much as they were just two blokes into Jamiroquai. For a recent series of sold-out shows in Europe and New York City, J and T have dilated to a seven-person live band that features some chops and muscle, but at the root of their 12-track self-titled debut for XL, Jungle retains the constricts of the original duo of producers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland.
Jungle emerged last year with a song called The Heat. It had a loose-limbed swagger, a mixture of funk and dance music, of the Rapture, Curtis Mayfield and Disclosure. It was also a little mysterious. It sounded like it was made in Manhattan but in fact it came from west London. It was euphoric ….
Shrouded in a shrinking degree of anonymity, Jungle — a collective of musicians centered on Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, two producers who until recently were known only as J and T — managed to erupt in the United Kingdom on the basis of a few well-choreographed videos set to a string of catchy electro-funk singles. They’ve played SXSW and Glastonbury so far in 2014 and are scheduled for a full summer of touring, including a spot at Lollapalooza just two weeks after they release their debut LP. Everything has happened so fast for a band whose names were only revealed a few months ago.
Ahead of this year's Mercury prize, DiS in partnership with Naim Audio's new wireless music system, mu-so, will help you GoDeeper into 2014's nominated albums. Today, we would like to turn your attention to the once-mysterious dance-loving duo Jungle. Here is Sam's review of the record, originally published back in July before the band exploded. Visit our Mercury mini-site for an interview with the band, their track by track guide to the album and more coverage of all of this year's nominees.
Being the buzziest buzzband this side of Haim, Jungle might as well be made of bees. The clunking, clattering, cantankerous hype machine rattled into action upon their early releases like “Busy Earnin’” and “Lucky I Got What I Want”, with public interest snowballing with every electro-funk lick and synthpop coo. It wasn’t unwarranted attention, with Jungle’s m.o.
Jungle’s self-titled debut LP on XL is a puzzle of contradictions as a full body of work. It’s equally as innovative as it is mundane, equally as ambitious as it is safe, and equally as fun as it is tedious. Well, the last one isn’t quite true, this album is a ton of fun. But its hyper-consistency leads to the last two-thirds of the album feeling pretty redundant.
"It's a lot like Gorillaz, where the art is at the forefront of it and, just like us, Damon sits behind the scenes," said Jungle's Josh Lloyd-Watson to Clash earlier this year, describing the importance of Jungle's early videos to both himself and collaborator Tom McFarland. The video that accompanied their first single, 'Platoon', eschewed any appearance of the primary creative duo, opting instead to set their contemporary take on soul and funk to a choreographed routine from six-year-old breakdancer B-Girl Terra. Considering the duo is now a seven-piece band which they have referred to as a "collective", with a sound that feels very much like a contemporary update of George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic outfits, it makes sense that they would want to background themselves as individuals.