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Enjoy Yourself! love to get out on the road and are not averse to a bit of extreme gig-going but even so the mid-week challenge of Swanage to Leicester and back did at times seem slightly insane… however, we soon forgot about that once we’d settled in the Soundhouse for a gig put together by a combination of two promoters; Magic Teapot and The Other Window.
Psychic Lemon were the main support and their opening track ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star‘ typifies their set; a thumping multi-layered psych rocker, with howls of distortion and frequent changes of tempo, that mutates into the dubby bass opening of ‘Satori Disko’ a slow-burning journey through a twisted psychedelic landscape.
‘Hey Droog!’ is another change of pace; an aggressive industrial barrage delivered with an armageddon like fury. I’ve heard this band described – possibly by themselves – as space rock, but that doesn’t cover the howling intensity of their sound. There are subtle touches in their music that you can pick up on their recorded material but tonight their live set is 5 tracks of monstrous ear battering dark psych which went down well with the Leicester crowd and which I expect to be seeing more of at psych fests and gigs around the country.
JuJu is the creation of Italian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti; he composes, plays, records and produces everything on his two albums to date – with last years ‘Our Mother Was A Plant’ following on from the previous year’s self-titled debut, both available on Fuzz Club. For live appearances, he has a regular band of extremely good musicians who allow him to take his vision out on the road. They start their set, split fairly evenly between both their albums, with the marching, militant ‘Samael’ from their debut. It builds the tension, with a slight air of threat, before exploding into a psychotic, almost gospel chorus. This is followed by a total change in style; ‘We Spit On Yer Grave’, a beautiful, driving, triumphant masterpiece – uplifting waves of guitar providing the perfect prescription for a cold winter night with its infectious, spirit-nourishing grooviness! It’s one of those ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moments, pure inspiration that would make a corpse grin! If there was justice in the music world it would a global hit, the soundtrack to every perfect summer.
‘Sunrise Ocean’ has a dusty timeless feel; a head out on the highway, driving through the desert night roadhouse blues groove. It clatters along with a rumbling bass line, rock solid drum pattern and another of those angelic choruses, otherworldly and visionary. The band is a joy to watch, clearly immersed in their own sound and digging the music that they’re creating. They don’t even look like a band! You could pass them in the street and never guess that they could combine to produce such evocative sounds, this is music purely for the love of music, no trappings, no-nonsense.
The set continues with ‘Stars and Sea’ – a trance-inducing ceremony in rock n roll form, a slow trippy blues-drenched psychedelic opening that eases into a fuzzed up psych rock crescendo packed full of soul and with its eyes set firmly on the heart of the universe. If music was colour this would be kaleidoscopic.
‘In A Ghetto’ the first of the tracks from the latest album ‘Our Mother Was A Plant’ is harder and harsher than the recorded version; pounding primeval voodoo rock summoning the spirits in abandoned fashion, conjuring images of steamy jungle nights, animal masks, dancing worshippers, ancient lust….
‘Play A Game’ in contrast seems warmer than on the LP; saturated with more soul, more colour, and more visionary vibes. It’s got an irresistible funk shuffle with mind-bending freak out guitar snaking away around it. ‘James Dean’ is a sexy beast of a track anyway but tonight it has even more swagger and aggression, it’s on edge – a sonic neon flare charged with such punk energy that at first, I couldn’t recognise it. “I wanna die like fucking James Dean, I wanna live like goddamn Putin”
‘Patrick’ too is weightier – a musically colossal almost industrial nugget of dark, dark bad trip psychedelia contrasting blissful out-of-body vocals and expressive guitar. They close with ‘Bring Em War’, just included on the latest Fuzz Club compilation ‘The Reverb Conspiracy Vol 5’. It’s a beautiful mix of bass-heavy pagan echoes, atmospheric keyboards and heavy rock riffs, Gioele in shaman mode, chanting and enchanting.
The epic feel continues with the encore ‘Lost’, a cavernous deep and thoughtful piece to finish with, the guitar hook evoking a feeling of pure nostalgia but at the same time a new promise, a glimpse of the future. It’s not the ‘normal’ way of ending a show – with a rousing crashing finale – but that’s what we’ve come to expect from JuJu. Guitars spiral off into deep space and the set comes to a close and I don’t begrudge a single one of the 400 miles I’ll have done by the very end of the day.
For me there is something that sets JuJu apart; they defy narrow categorisation, their sound too expansive, varied and wide to fit any label. There is an earthy, primal, natural feel emanating from what is on the face of it rock music. Their records are a mix of pagan rhythms and beats but with a steamy urban grit, hints of gospel, bags of soul. There are ecstatic highs amidst the dark wide open spaces, an element of ceremony and ritual, something huge and spiritual about the sound that doesn’t fit any set genre.
I try to avoid direct comparisons with other bands but I’ll make an exception; the genre-busting mix up of different styles and approaches reminds me of ‘Screamadelica’ – not necessarily in the actual sound but in the sheer joy involved with adding in so many diverse elements and creating something very different but at the same time with a timeless feel to it.
I anticipate doing many more miles on the road with JuJu in pursuit of those precious moments when everything sounds just right and all is well with the world.