It’s been roughly a year since they emerged from out of nowhere but Jungle have already had an undeniable impact on the music scene, with an appearance at Glastonbury Festival and a Mercury Prize nomination already under their belts. Now they embark on the UK leg of their world tour after an explosive opening night at the Portsmouth Pyramids.
Support for the evening came from Clarence Clarity, who seems to be following the example set by Jungle by building hype through his mysterious and vague persona. Try going to his website, where all you will find is the word “Confused?” in what looks like a freeze frame of a 90’s VHS. One of his many bizarre music videos is a side scrolling stream of Justin Timberlake and NSYNC magazine covers, where their eyes and mouths are all scratched out. This unsettling and confusing aesthetic is an effective visual representation of his sound: electro-pop, but with an underlying creepiness to it. Glitchy vocal samples are combined with fuzzy bass lines and synth arpeggios; vocal pitch shifts in tracks like ‘The Gospel Truth’ and ‘Those Who Can’t, Cheat’ are almost reminiscent of a Marilyn Manson hook. Clarence Clarity is deliberately unclear, but his overall artistic motive becomes secondary in his live shows, where the music stands up on its own trippy and unsettling merits.
Jungle walk onto the stage shortly after and their name is suddenly lit up behind them, each letter is a neon sign on a pillar of light bulbs. The band obviously prefers to be primarily backlit, and their silhouette adds to the sense that they are a faceless collective rather than distinctly identifiable personalities. Opening with ‘Platoon’ seems like a strange choice at first, but the instrumental section is drawn out to prolong the groove and increase the anticipation before it then moves on to the song’s conclusion. This is one of the merits of their live show: Jungle know when to keep a groove going, occasionally repeating whole sections of a song just to keep their audience in the moment. As the song ends, the lights all cut out to a sample of smashing glass; it’s a nice touch and it suggests that Jungle are about to blow shit up.
Throughout their set, Jungle demonstrate that they aren’t dependent on pre-recorded samples to bring the multi-faceted sound of their debut album to the stage. The samples are reduced to the aspects of their sound that can’t be replicated with instruments, such as the iconic siren wail in ‘The Heat’. Other than that, it all appears to be live. With a seven piece band backing the creative duo their performance is organic and rich with detail, and not one element is lost or undersold despite the interweaving layers of sound. For a band that has been around for such a short time, their set goes off without a hitch.
The distorted guitar licks are sharp and precise which acts as a counterpart to the warmth of the bass grooves, and the synths and samples all fall neatly into place throughout the songs. The drum sections are shared between two percussionists and the hand played bongos and abundance of shakers and maracas make tracks like ‘Busy Earnin” sound almost tropical, a far cry from the urban sound of the London based collective.
One of the trademarks of Jungle’s self titled LP is that there is not one single or distinct voice. The vocals are shared between at least four voices on stage and the two backing singers lift the harmonies and counter melodies to the forefront. With an emphasis on group vocals, it’s a shame that the audience weren’t encouraged to sing along at all. More crowd interaction probably would have encouraged more singing and dancing, and though the crowd at the Pyramids wasn’t exactly static, it wasn’t nearly active enough for such an infectiously groovy act like Jungle.
At just over an hour long, their set felt a little short for a headline act, but they did well to extend their 40 minute album without it feeling forced (though the second appearance of the whistle motif from ‘Smoking Pixels’ was unnecessary). Fans of the record will not be disappointed with the live show and with an appearance at Bestival already confirmed, festivalgoers should definitely keep an eye out for Jungle over the summer.
Jungle are continuing their UK tour until March 6th. Tickets can be bought here.