On a dreich Monday evening in September that a grand tour bus, and one sporting Stockholm plates no less, is berthed in the Brudenell car park would suggest that something rather out of the ordinary is about to go down in this erstwhile gentleman’s social and recreational club tonight. And something most surely did, for this luxury charabanc had transported into this darkened corner of west Leeds the various members of Junip and their fellow Swedish country folk Mariam The Believer (fronted by one Mariam Wallentin (pictured) and who later play the most distinguished of supporting roles with what was an inspired, individual take on mercurial lysergic folk music) as the headliners approached the closing stages of their UK live itinerary for 2013.
It had been a long, meandering world tour that saw the Swedish sextet zigzag back and forth across Europe, the Atlantic and Scandinavia, as well as their taking in a couple of English festivals at first Latitude and then most recently, Ramsbottom. Two evenings previously they had been on the other side of the Pennines where the subtle aesthetics and innate intimacy of their music was largely lost, somehow posted missing in the exposed expanse of that Greater Manchester town’s local cricket field. Blessed with the familiarity and warmth of the Brudenell’s main concert room, though, this Junip experience was to be something altogether different.
75 minutes long, 15 songs deep and over eight miles high, everything about this show had another dimension. Plotting a course across almost the entire length and breadth of their recording career, Junip’s set resembled that of a river’s journey. At its source, first ‘Black Refuge’ (from the band’s 2005 EP of the same name) and then ‘So Clear’ (which along with six other of this evening’s songs were drawn from their eponymous second album, released earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim) formed a stirring confluence as the performance quickly began to gather momentum. Once into its middle course it started to twist and turn through an aural landscape of its own grand design, as the sublime finesse of Junip’s music began to truly emerge. The gossamer texture of ‘Walking Lightly’ flowed effortlessly into ‘Tide’ before turning into the rapids and relative turbulence of the vaguely sinister ‘Villain’.
As the set moved into its latter stages, the music began to assert a quiet assurance as the raft of synths welled up behind the soft, delicate tranquillity of José González’s voice and classical guitar in wave upon atmospheric wave of sonic spume. ‘Your Life Your Call’ and ‘Line Of Fire’ acquired a fresh synthetic urgency and vigour not immediately apparent in their studio form before the concluding ‘In Every Direction’ (from their début album Fields) rose its head even further above that parapet of serenity and bliss upon which a lot of Junip’s reputation seems to lie .
The band then returned for the most perfectly weighted of three song encores. With the six men almost concealed in darkness, ‘Without You’ assumed the persona of a snake charmer with its strangely hypnotic trip-hop vibe; González’s own ‘Down The Line’ (taken from his second solo album Our Nature and the only non-Julip number of the night) was beautifully tender; and the valedictory ‘After All Is Said and Done’ captured everything that was truly great about this evening’s journey as the song swelled from the most humble of beginnings into the rousing dignity of its euphoric, percussive climax.