May 9, 2012
Jungle By Night - Hidden
"The evolution of afrobeat" - Jungle By Night drops their first full studio album on Kindred Spirits.
'Hidden' is the first full studio album from this group of dutch lads, who retain their youthful exuberance and innocent energy, and delve deeper into their own sound. Moving slightly away from the afro-beat blueprint that characterized last year's self-titled debut LP, the nine-piece have added Gamelan tones and studio effects to their afro-funk template, as well as exploring other parts of Africa like Mali's desert soul and djembe rhythms from Senegal. After two years of playing, and having performed over 80 gigs last year, the group have settled in their own rhythm, and 'Hidden' sees them trying out new ideas and forms.
Still keeping the unit strictly instrumental, one strength of Jungle By Night is their innate sense of democracy - the quality control of the hive mind. Tracks are jammed out and developed from the rehearsal room to the stage, keeping the audience in mind all the time. 'Hidden' feels very much like a live record, in the vein of classic jazz albums for example, while at the same time utilizing all the digital options that todays recording techniques have to offer.
The album opener 'Rangda' marks this new improved version of the band, using selected pieces of Gamelan. "Two of our band members, their families are from Indonesia, and their houses are loaded with gamelan instruments. But the Gamelan tunings have little to do with western tunings. It just sounds eerie, hypnotic and mysterious," said the band. 'Rangda' nods to the spirit of early Tortoise and mid-90's MoWax, and while Jungle By Night know how to stick to what they do best, they're partial to the odd experimental excursion too.
The album is laid out by a group who clearly understand live dynamics, building the tension of the first half of the LP with the tight riffs of 'Togetherness', the mix of west-coast organ and plaintive horns of '2 Days Before 2012' and 'Gallowstreet 34', which could easily soundtrack the 70's edition of GTA Addis Ababa. Mid-way through the album also points to an interesting path, the drum-less ambience of 'Night Fight', a duel of thumb pianos and slide guitar, awash with delays and reverbs, evoking fireflies and glow worms amid the nocturnal jungle creatures.
In the second half, tracks like 'Ethiopino', 'The Past Is History' and 'Marsvin' represent what Jungle By Night do best - taut, multi-layered grooves that are perfect for dancing to, or any other nocturnal activity you like to indulge in. One thing the boys know how to do is find the pocket and lock it, playing around with time signatures while keeping it dynamic. Perhaps the album's surprise gem is 'Ghettos Of The Mind', a languid, Tuareg-inspired roller where you can almost hear the wind whistling across the desert in the background. Producer Wiboud Burkens (Leon Ware, Michael Franti, Carleen Anderson, N'Dambi) has certainly helped craft the complex JBN dynamics into a coherent shape, which has allowed the band to play and experiment without having to worry about the final sound.
'Hidden' demonstrates natural talent and sensibility, but there's something more at work. While those outside the bubble will try to pinpoint or uncover the band's appeal and what makes them tick, somewhere between the many layers of sounds and rhythm, between the audience and the players, lies a connection that can't really be explained. Jungle By Night know better than to shine too bright a light on it.
These young Netherlands cats have been making waves in the current afrobeat scene with lots of gigs, festivals, singles and EP releases, even getting knighthood recognition from Tony Allen or Chief Udoh Essiet (respectively drummer and percussionist of Fela Kuti)… After their 7-track mini-album, Jungle By Night are finally releasing their first full-length album, Hidden, through Kindred Spirits / Rush Hour Distribution, delving deeper into a sound they're really making their own. Expect indeed more than neo-retro afrobeat here, the Dutch lads are nom implementing Malian soul, djembe rhythms from Senegal, Gamelan tones, Jazz or Funk elements and even some Rock attitude into their cooking. Yep, "cooking", and not "recipe", because there's no used formula here. After 2 years of touring, the band seems to have settled for its own sound, the musicians are now interacting with each other like the coolest jambands from the US, blending styles with ease - the blaxploitation/afrofunk of Gallowstreet 34 or the ethio-jazz/rock of the single Ethiopino being some perfect examples. A mesmerizing album from start to finish.
A state of great excitement could be felt at Headfunk Towers last week with the release of Hidden, the first full album from Dutch Afrobeat/Jazz/Funk adventurers Jungle By Night. Last year’s eponymous mini-album was a firm favourite, with it’s deep Afro influence placing it somewhere between the dancefloor and headphone nodder material. That release set a marker, could Jungle By Night continue the upward trajectory of this template?
Jungle By Night are a 9-piece instrumental band from Amsterdam connected by their love of African, Funk, Soul and Jazz music along with a desire to move the original template of these musical styles on to new territories. A band of this is size needs to be tight and driven, for a canyon of jazz awfulness awaits those who lack the vision to realise you need tunes to go with your jamming talents. Fear not! Jungle By Night have it, confirmed by no less an authority than Tony Allen as “the evolution of afrobeat”.
Opening track Rangda sets a very different tone than anything previously heard with the use of the Gamelan at the forefront of the mix, laying a hypnotic groove and slightly creepy feeling. It’s a bold way to start but one that builds the tension and anticipation. Cyclin comes next with a more familiar brass-driven sound. Organ and guitar battle, layering the funk as the mood lifts up a notch or two. Togetherness drives on into full Afrobeat and funk. For fans of earlier material, it’s here that the album really hits.
Heavy funk vibes spew out of 2 Days Before 2012. It’s locked down by a guitar lick as the horns spiral and drums skip like Fela is there with them all. Gallowstreet 34 starts with a Hip Hop break dropping into a wah-wah flecked riff before diverting left into a psychedelic swirl until finally arriving at a cheeky finish.
Short interlude track Nightflight has more psyche with a looped, scratchy background to an mbira solo. Single Ethiopino breaks this introverted moment with its driving, echoey guitar and explosive horns. The Past Is History drops back into the Afrobeat template with slow builds and solos for a number of the band, trombone player Ko possbily winning this one. This is first of a 4-part closer to the album of big, epic jams. Marsvin is driven along by organ and sax squeals, it’s a proper dance number. Unlike Ghettos Of The Mind which delves into a more mellow groove, dub-inflecked and bluesy at times. Closing track Bokoor springs a suprise to finish with a harmonica appearing subtly at first before the tune builds with guitar and percussion chatting away. It takes a full three minutes to finally explode into life with the whole band.
Hidden is an outstanding piece of work from a band obviously loving playing together. The songs structures are important and these have jam-orientated roots, much like Fat Freddy’s Drop. The whole album feel like a major labour of love that has been born by the jam, honed and perfected live then polished in the studio. Instrumental albums need to have enough variety to sustain a listeners interest and JBN succeed with ease. UK dates are promised later in the year with the hope of some UK festival appearances in the future as well.
05. 2 Days Before
06. Gallowstreet 34
09. The Past Is History
11. Ghettos of the Mind
Labels: Jungle By Night