In 2014, British funk collective Jungle deserted the cultural wilderness with their ironically-titled “Busy Earnin’”, a ubiquitous hit that made more than just an impression on the charts. The track featured on the soundtracks of FIFA 15 and Forza Horizon 2 as well as nestling into the background of several TV shows and advertising campaigns. Seemingly overnight, Jungle had become one of British music’s most exciting, new exports.
Their follow-up, For Ever, although not noticeably digressive from their debut album, strives for greater complexity as the initial novelty of their collective harmony and summery lite-funk begins to subside. As a number of the tracks’ titles suggest, Los Angeles is the locale of creative influence. ‘Heavy, California’ is one of the album’s brightest examples of this. The sprightly, sun-drenched hook is insulated by the July jangle of guitar and light percussion. Although like Los Angeles, the dreamer’s paradise, the record’s bonhomie is constantly threatened by reality’s pinprick.
“With Jungle, their best work stems from scenarios where they stick to what they know. Effectively, they are the musical equivalent to an arthouse flick – supreme style with little or no substance.”
For Ever is a heartbreak record set to the infectious bliss of Los Angeles, with the addition of a raw emotional arc adding substance to the clean stylishness of Jungle’s soundscapes. Jungle show once more that their seven-strong collective are well-oiled in their instrumental execution and that they thrive the further they step back in time. ‘Beat 54 (All Good Now)’ slots disco and alternative R&B together well and album closer ‘Pray’ is as delicate as it is dreamy, soaring skyward with the majestic stroke of a pristine orchestral section.
But unfortunately when it comes to conveying that heartbreak convincingly, Jungle falter. As expansive and malleable as their sound is, there’s no escaping the limits of their collective falsetto delivery. Albeit an interesting facet of the band’s multi-faceted approach, it hardly carries the punch of heartbreak that Jungle make the emotional core of the record. Some acts are limited in the corners of the musical world they can explore effectively, just as some are uninhibited. So when Jungle, a band known primarily for their ability to breeze by and uplift, stray into weightier matter the results are somewhat jarring.
With Jungle, their best work stems from scenarios where they stick to what they know. Effectively, they are the musical equivalent to an arthouse flick – supreme style with little or no substance. And that’s not a bad thing here. Jungle are clearly excelling on a sensory level but when it comes to strong songwriting there’s little of worth to dissect here.