Junip At The Troubadour, Wednesday May 29th 2013
On Wednesday night, Junip played a sold-out show at the Troubadour in front of a very quiet and in-awe crowd. The Sweden-based band has had a weird career, they formed about 15 years ago, but have just released their second album (the first one, ‘Fields’ was released in 2010), as their work was interrupted by José Gonzalez’ s successful solo career. Nevertheless, the band had already sold out their Thursday show at the same place, and decided to add a second one to please their loyal fans.
Last time I saw them they were a trio, but this time there were five musicians behind José Gonzalez, who was finger picking his guitar, standing in the middle of the stage. Around him, Tobias Winkerton on moog synth, Elias Araya on drums, as well as three other persons on tropical percussion, more synth and bass, were adding layers to the subtle and complex compositions. One of them was James Mathé, aka Barbaroosa, an English guy who had opened the show with an amazing solo performance, using his emotion-charged eerie falsetto as his main instrument, and his warm voice were adding more texture to the back-up vocals.
On stage, José Gonzalez is a discreet guy who doesn’t talk a lot and, but bathed in the lights of the Troubadour stage, he was shining through his krautrock-y songs equally mixing rhythms and catchy melodies. Junip’s music may have been described as gentle or nice, but these simple terms would not make justice to the true beauty at the core of the songs, which can slowly sprawl their sound like a soothing and tranquil cover wrapping your senses, and then explode in electronica and percussion fire. On Wednesday night, it was all about the gradually built atmosphere, the grooves slowly expanding, which were adding more details to the bucolic soundscapes.
Gonzalez sings with a docile tone which can evoke a quiet abdication facing life’s existential problems, but it may be more about plain acceptance than resignation if you listen closely to the lyrics: ’It’s your life, it’s your call / Stand up or enjoy your fall’ says the chorus of ‘Your Life Your Call’, … a sort of way to re-imagine Sisyphus happy, and one of the highlights of the show, which was enthusiastically received by the audience. ‘Line of Fire’ was also immediately recognized by the crowd thanks to its beautiful loop going crescendo over Gonzalez’s fragile vocals evoking despair and hope at the same time, ‘What you choose to believe in/Takes you as you fall’.
Before this, ‘Suddenly’ was a soothing and appeasing trip, ‘Far Away’ was a slow-burn krautrock number with such a dance appeal, ‘Walking Lightly’ had Tuareg accents, like a glorious pop-synth version of a Tinariwen’s tune, ‘Rope and Summit’ was going in glittering synth and rhythm section waves, building a deep groove around the mantra-like lyrics.
Despite one guy behind me requesting many times ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, a Bruce Springsteen’s song that the band recorded, they sticked to their own repertoire during their too short set, mixing old and new songs from their self-title release. It’s true that Gonzalez has developed an art at covering others’ songs while making them totally his — just listen to his covers of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ or The Knife’s ‘Hearbeats’ — but the new songs were the star of the show.
However, everybody can take something different from Junip, a girl on my left was one of the few people who was dancing her heart out during the whole show, clearly enjoying herself. Clearly, all the songs are inviting and very danceable, but most people preferred to listen to them eyes closed, slowly balancing to the throbbing rhythms and drone synth. Junip’s music makes people free, it leads them in far away countries with its repetitive grooves, it makes them internalize the mantra-lines and the vaguely exotic rhythms. José Gonzalez said in an interview that he wanted to make music that sounds like a ‘German jazz band and an African pop band’, but this can only partly describe the pastoral beauty of Junip’s music.
1. In Every Direction
2. So Clear
4. Rope & Summit
7. Your Life Your Call
8. Far Away
9. Walking Lightl
10. Line On Fir