After gaining a newfound sense of emotional and acoustic freedom two years ago on their third album Loving In Stereo – their first LP to be released on their own label Caiola Records – it seems like Jungle‘s Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland have taken this freedom further and begun to toy with and baffle their devoted audience. As ever, Jungle is still a multimedia experience; in which the duo put equal effort into making their songs and accompanying music videos enjoyable, joyous and cohesive. Such is the case that this time around on their latest offering Volcano they have made both medias bewildering for their fans.
On the audio side of things, there are a few things that could cause this reaction. The introduction of a seemingly elusive Essex-based third member Lydia Kitto (mysterious because she doesn’t have any songs on Spotify and has few hits on Google and YouTube), whose throaty voice adds dust to Jungle’s ongoing illusion at making songs sound like they have been found from a collection of music from a bygone era. With it being a female singer, it also makes you forget about Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland’s involvement. Taking away that personal touch that previous records had.
Rapping on a Jungle album is not a completely new attribute, considering that Sudanese-American rapper Bas was flowing on ‘Romeo’ from the last record. However not only is he back on the dreamy finale ‘Pretty Little Thing’, he has brought along with him other hip-hop artists: California’s Chanel Tres (‘I’ve Been in Love’), Flatbush Zombies’ member Erick the Architect (the album’s most exciting song ‘Candle Flame’) and legendary ‘Witness the fitness‘ London rapper Roots Manuva (‘You Ain’t No Celebrity‘). This gives the album moments of lyrical vulgar including the following from ‘I’ve Been in Love‘: “She sittin’ on my new shit/We still getting messy/She lick me from the neck up/All I wanna do is fuck it/I don’t care if you rush it/Only care if you touch it.” It’s a far cry from the days when Jungle were writing homesick lyrics about how disillusioned they were with being in L.A.
But what will toy with Jungle’s acolytes the most is how Volcano sounds both like a Jungle record and also doesn’t. The best case in point is ‘Holding On’, it sounds like M.I.A at a graffiti-filled rave, yet seeping through the cracks of those walls is the old ‘Mr Sandman‘-soul that Jungle can be known for. Perhaps this is Jungle showing that they still stick by their own principles but have expanded their style. A volcano is an explosion of sound. Adding to the fact this album is the quickest they have recorded – purposely relying on instincts rather than the overthinking of former releases, it helps explain the haphazardness. Nonetheless, there is a lot of relaxing dreaminess that welcomely appears on the pretty final chapter of Volcano; in the barbershop ‘Good At Breaking Hearts‘, which features Wikipedia-absent East Londoner JNR Williams and the glowing ‘Palm Trees‘. The soaring strings at the ending of ‘Problemz’ is also soothing.
On the visual side of their branding, once again Jungle has wonderfully created music promos for most of their album’s songs that feature a group of choreographed dancers, some of whom you will recognize from the past. Yet this time there is a narrative, as the performers are part of a fictionalised TV show called ‘Us Against The World‘ – which is also the name of Volcano’s opening track. Yet the concept can be confusing as once the performers have finished, the scene zooms out in third wall fashion to reveal the set and then further again to show the backs of Jungle’s Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland inside a control booth observing all the cameras.
Nonetheless, another sign of Jungle’s forward thinking is the video to Volcano’s best song ‘Back On 74‘ – a track that reminisces about those childhood days of playing on the streets – as it allows users to interact with the scenery. You can click the illustrations that appear in frames and add them to a WeTransfer basket for purchasing.
Volcano might be a bamboozling experience for long-term fans of Jungle but like the type of mountain that the album title references, it erupts with blazing intensity.