Jungle ‘s latest album, Volcano, marks a significant step in solidifying the duo’s musical identity. Comprising Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, the London-based pair navigates a sonic landscape that blends various genres, scenes, and sounds. However, while Volcano serves a cocktail of musical elements reminiscent of a carefree summer happy hour, it often struggles to infuse the soulful depth it aims to convey.
The album showcases a distinct evolution in Jungle’s work, where soulful beats and rhythmic percussion intermingle with distorted and accelerated vocals. This fusion creates an appealing sonic concoction that threads through the album. A departure from their earlier works like Jungle (2014) and the densely layered For Ever (2018), the duo found their footing with the expansive Loving In Stereo (2021), featuring tracks like the catchy “Keep Moving” and exploratory collaborations. The success of this release led to a sold-out residency at London’s Brixton Academy and further opportunities, including an upcoming headline show at All Points East and a significant US tour, culminating at Madison Square Garden.
Jungle attributed their recent creative approach to their collaboration with Inflo, the alleged mastermind behind enigmatic neo-soul collective SAULT. Their focus on vibe and flow is evident throughout Volcano, resulting in a concise musical presentation. The album avoids excessive complexity, with songs often taking shape within two hours – a principle the duo adheres to for artistic clarity.
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Despite its coherence, Volcano occasionally falls victim to its own uniformity. The recurring elements, such as muddled vocal lines reminiscent of classic samples and minimal yet impactful basslines, contribute to a homogeneity that makes certain tracks blend together. Some songs struggle to distinguish themselves, with instances like “Us Against The World” relying on repetitive phrasing that dilutes its rhythmic potential.
Nonetheless, when Jungle strikes the right chord, the impact is undeniable. “Candle Flame” channels the essence of The Avalanches‘ hit “Since I Left You,” while “I’ve Been In Love” successfully incorporates the captivating vocals of Channel Tres. The inclusion of “Problemz” from 2022 seamlessly integrates into Volcano, alongside the disco-infused groove of “Palm Trees,” carrying an enchanting Italo-Disco vibe.
Yet, amidst this sonic exploration, Jungle‘s enigmatic aura remains intact. Their 2013 emergence into the music scene as anonymous figures created a buzz that still lingers. However, this mystique slightly compromises the authenticity and human connection that soul music thrives upon. The absence of a tangible presence hinders their ability to fully embrace and embody the emotional depth inherent in the genre, leaving a subtle void in the otherwise impressive musical landscape of Volcano.
In Volcano, Jungle crafts a refined auditory experience, but the elusive human touch required to fully convey the soulful essence of their chosen genre remains just out of reach.