As a moniker-manifesto Jungle couldn’t have been more meant to be if it had appeared on producers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland’s foreheads as a birthmark. These twelve songs positively teem with life and vitality. Falsetto-vocals swing between animal yelps and market-stall mantras as they herald the exquisite, remontant hooks of ‘Julia’ and ‘The Heat’. Fecund atmospherics – police sirens, bicycle dings, IM blips – and detritus-percussion of coke bottles and window chimes underscore and puncutate tracks with all the omnipresence and irregularity of jungles Amazonian and concrete.
For the cynically-minded Jungle’s arrival into town on a tidal-wave of hype just on time for our recent cultural reunion with the disco dark arts -orchestrated by everyone from Movement and Connan Mockasin to this up-and-coming French duo you might have heard of – could be somewhat off-putting. Each blogged bleat though has proved to have had an inverse effect, an inculcating quality, with each a polystyrene peanut that’s held the collective ever closer whilst simultaneously allowing them to keep fully intact.
Driving this is the concerted effort Jungle have put in place to allow for the kind of steady flourish they’re singing about on ‘Time’ (“time it took time and time again”). As a result, even more so than the sheer explosive quality of ‘Busy Earnin’ - less random-access and more laser-targeted to your dancing feet - it’s the slow-burning subtlety of the down-tempo numbers (‘Son of a Gun’, ‘Accelerate’, ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’) which carries the most weight over the course of the record via the dense, evocative layers they’re built from. Indeed, it’s moments like the tense building bass-line of ‘Lucky...’ and the creaking opening and closing of doors on ‘Drops’ which speak with more insight and subliminal heft than the broad brushstrokes of the lyrics: “I’ve been loving you for too long”.
In place of the rush-release or an endless run of singles and EPs, pushed just enough to ensure that all air has been exorcised, the story of Jungle has instead been one of growing intrigue, a ripening of fruit that’s now prime for a party in your mouth before it starts to come over all furry and the fruit flies gate-crash. Mirroring this growth-process are the symbolism and structure of their much-celebrated videos in the build-up to their debut. First single ‘Platoon’ featured one adorable/bad-ass B-girl Terra cutting a rug and was soon followed up by ‘The Heat’ with its two-shellsuited rollerskaters throwing all kinds of eight-wheeled shapes. By the time we reached the spectacular ‘Busy Earnin’ in the Spring we now had a veritable pack of 12 dancers on our hands moving with a unity of alternate aggression and beauty.
Like cells splitting or a single-seed growing into rainforest, this natural growth has demarcated not only their sonic development and song-writing but also the band’s surging popularity, with a recent early afternoon Glastonbury billing proving to be an outdated hand-me-down even three weeks prior to their debut’s release.
Now that they’ve grown though, questions start to hit home with more prescience. Whilst the falsetto-vocals are a tried and tested formula for success with “this sort of thing”, evidenced from the Bee Gees to Pharrell Williams, by the time closer ‘Lemonade Lake’ comes round Jungle are teetering on the edge of excess and emotional disconnect. Despite Josh and Tom’s admirable insistence of their insignificance with regards to the whole, their vocal omnipresence suggests an unwillingness to take risks by pitching downwards with any kind of longevity, letting loose in the manner of Disclosure and have a revolving door of talent at their disposal, or even going all-out and allowing a characterful instrumental interlude like ‘Smoking Pixels’ the space to spread its wings.
This aside though, it’d take a heart of stone, a pulse of ice and concrete slippers to not appreciate Jungle’s achievement with this record. Summing it up is the crucial moment of those aforementioned videos: the closing shot. Here we see the dancers in their natural habitat or pose, free from their rigorous dance regimes and with a dorky look on their face. It’s a welcome sense of visual recline, a valuable insight into the humanity behind craft, a fitting image for a group who’ve distanced themselves from their music in order to create funk whose marriage of considered finesse and outright fun speaks for itself.