Jos� Gonz�lez may have only released the two solo LPs since 2003, but he’s far more prolific than that fact suggests: he has stints in two hardcore bands to his name – Back Against The Wall and Renascence – umpteen collaborations, and has sampled – and been sampled by – an amalgam of contemporary buzznames.
Jos�’s band Junip, however, is something of a different proposition. Their first EP was released way back in 2005, featuring a rather excellent take on Bruce Springsteen‘s The Ghost Of Tom Joad, and it would appear that further progress was shelved in the face of Gonz�lez’ ascent into the annals of pop culture.
This, then, is the original sound of Gonz�lez melancholy. You might even say it’s the way it ought to sound, augmented as it is by the texturing input of bandmates Elias Araya (drums) and Tobias Winterkorn (organ, Moog); the latter, especially, contributing aural layers with a subtlety bereft of most others.
Fields, an album overdue to the tune of five years, sounds exactly as one would expect given the exploits of the band’s frontman: In Every Direction plants Junip’s flag in the ground of foreboding psychedelia, Gonz�lez’ unassuming timbre juxtaposed against slightly menacing acoustic chords to scintillating effect. Close your eyes and it could be The Stone Roses unplugged.
Lead single Always then turns down the threat level – its hand-drumming lending it the air of Turin Brakes‘ Optimist LP – before Rope & Summit, a track given away to generate interest in the album, propels itself into the ether from a platform of evocative post-folk, Winterkorn’s keys working on all levels.
Fields reaches its peak soon thereafter, the Massive Attack-esque Without You building patiently into a brooding, minimalist soundscape; each progressively added layer rewarding listener investment generously. It’s Alright, too, finds its feet with the simplest of melodies, understated fret dexterity and a thudding kick drum that drives the concern along with little fanfare.
It is something of a disappointment, then, that the album seems to tail off slightly in its closing stages: Howl, Sweet & Bitter and Don’t Let It Pass, while excellent indications of the Junip formula – smart, organic construction, fine layering – lack the punch of preceding tracks.
The closing trio of tracks, similarly – Off Point, To The Grain and Tide – purport their arts with nous, but remain tethered to ground already covered with more panache in Fields’ opening exchanges. Because the Junip method translates its members’ admirable musical virtues, it can hardly be said that they’re hardly flogging a dead horse; variety, though, is far from their forte.
While it is certainly open to debate as to whether or not the band’s consistent mono-styling is behind an album that seems to fail to stays the course beyond its engrossing first half, Junip have created an LP with the potential to enthral at any given point in its tracklisting; taken as a whole, however, Gonz�lez and co’s dark acoustica eventually wears a little thin.