A long time ago (well, five years ago anyway), there was a Swedish band called Junip. But after just one EP they had to break for a while so that Jos Gonzlez, its lead singer, could have a relatively successful solo career. Junip are now set to return to the limelight with a new album. Tonight they’re in Hoxton to play songs from their back catalogue, as well as songs from the new record. The main question surrounding the gig is: Is this merely a Jos Gonzlez gig with a backing band, or the (re)birth of something new(ish)?
Whatever the answer to this question, there’s definitely an audience. The Square Bar + Kitchen’s gig space, a dimly lit black box with an almost unsettling disco ball threatening to ruin the mood, was packed to the rafters. It was also unfathomably hot in there (note: when bands mention anything to their crowd about the temperature, it’s the sign that a venue needs air conditioning).
There are moments during the 45 minute show that gave some glimpses into the potential that Junip has as a band. Opening song of the evening Rope And Summit is their best to date – gently driving percussion propels it onwards alongside some soothing and mellow-sounding synth. Always has a steady momentum and a textured, spacious sound. Songs like Far Away are also already proving popular with some of the crowd; with these, Junip might well have some longetivity.
However, their sound in general isn’t captivating on a consistent basis and some songs meander rather too much, save for the interesting waves of noise emanating from the keyboard that briefly breathe life into some of this material. It’s perfect music for lazing around to but not necessarily for a muggy Monday evening packed into a box of a room. And while songs like Without You might have some nice percussion sounds, it’s hard not to wonder whether songs like that are more effective when it’s just Gonzlez and a guitar. Yet the last three or four songs of the evening cause such doubts to subside; but before we can really get into it, Junip are off the stage.
Bolstered by a couple of extra musicians, the band’s performance is impressive, if immobile. Gonzlez’s voice remains unique, and it’s intriging to hear his vocals over a fuller sound than we’re used to. We’ve yet to hear the album, but for now, despite tantalising glimpses every now and again, it’s hard to think of this as anything but ‘Jos Gonzlez with a band’.