As I am listening to this, a copy of Mark Kermode’s tremendously entertaining book ‘Hatchet Job – Love Movies, Hate Critics‘ lies in front of me. On the front cover, Kermode’s face is pictured peeking out at the bottom of the book from the bridge of his nose upwards. A small fly just landed on the movie buff’s printed head and crawled around it for a while before buzzing off into the heat. This in turn made me think of those tragically unfortunate souls starving mercilessly in the darkest recesses of Africa, where, as you’ve seen on many television adverts for various charities, I am sure, all manner of insects will alight upon these tortured human beings’ faces – unsmiling, often desperate, but mostly resigned to their own grim fate. It took me a while to get to the point, I know, but inexplicably, JuJu somehow plant images of a similar kind inside my head.
Not that you could ever REALLY accuse these songs of being anything approaching “Afrobeat”; it’s just that almost all of the titles here (‘We Spit On Yer Grave‘, ‘Dance With The Fish‘, ‘Bring ‘Em War‘ etc) suggest a certain finality. Musically, we are confronted immediately with the scuzzy nightclub toilet sound of ‘Samael‘ – a gritty, early morning post-club migraine of a song that evokes comparisons with both Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and early Primal Scream. ‘We Spit On Yer Grave‘ is Arcade Fire on amphetamines, but the overriding feel of JuJu’s debut album is one of an exhausted wooziness – the repose of the small hours being furtively reflected through a mixture of shoegaze, psychedelic noise-pop, pagan folk music, bar room piano and hypnotic rhythms that condemn the listener to a comatose like state throughout its 41 minute journey.
Or am I just talking absolute bollocks? It’s quite possible that I am, for JuJu’s debut album is nigh on impossible to correctly pigeonhole. It all starts to make more sense, however, once you realise this is the latest project of Lay Llamas man Gioele Valenti, who described it thus: “I wanted to develop some themes from the previous experience with Llamas…the link with Mother Earth, the theme of lysergic trip, symbols of Black Magic and a strange ancient grammelot that I call Ramanna“. Well quite. It makes even more sense when you learn that Valenti has recently returned from time on the road with Sweden’s finest experimentalists GOAT, with whom he and JuJu share a clear affinity for repetitive beats and tentative leaps into the great unknown. Really quite fascinating.
Juju is out now via Sunrise Ocean Bender Records.