There’s quite a lot of psych echoing around the hills of Swanage at the moment - much of it emanating from that magic shoppe Replayed Records of course – but possibly none of it is as different and adventurous as this, the second album release by Italian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti aka JuJu.
All scenes and musical styles develop their standard approaches and a certain percentage of any genre can end up being formulaic with the current psych scene being no exception; this record seems to go out of its way to defy that prediction, with even the cover photograph not fitting the norm!
This LP, from Fuzz Club - the label seemingly at the centre of the psych world and definitely not afraid to take risks - opens with ‘Death By Beautiful Things’ a slow burning fuzzed up instrumental with funky looping bass and beautiful ethereal guitar riffs and echoes giving a holy and magical feel. ‘In A Ghetto’ is dominated by earthbeat tribal drumming, enhanced by chanting and fuzzy psych guitar. A throbbing voodoo ritual with a rock ‘n’ roll swagger buried in the mix. ‘And Play A Game’ changes things entirely to a harder, more detached and minimal beat; a cold ambience that is then briefly ripped open with a jagged spaghetti western guitar – before developing into a dance track with a rocking soulful vocal and psychedelic guitar licks floating about…‘James Dean’ retains some consistency with the track before, slightly similar in vocal style – an ecstatic holy mantra – but with a rocking crunchy bass and guitar sound tinged with the blues.
So that’s side 1, a blast of aural daring and variety, earthy, tribal, dense and trippy - hard to describe exactly how or why it works but it does, and it certainly isn’t following the psych by numbers route.
Side 2 starts with ‘I Got Your Soul’ which lives up to its title.. an exuberant supercharged funk track – the soundtrack to the most far out psychedelic Blaxploitation flick never made; a grumbling bass line, choppy guitar and soulful, distorted and dreamlike vocals, dripping with 70s atmosphere. ‘Patrick’ raises the tempo and the guitars move forwards in the mix backed by blissed up vocals with an almost gospel feel…chugging and celebratory psychedelic dance. ‘What A Bad Day’ is a bit of an animal! A broody almost industrial slab of dark psych funk; a relentless throbbing bass line dominates with subtle touches of guitar as well as full on fuzz rock– as if some Satan worshipping hells angels on LSD decided to put together an evil funky dance number….
And then the album closes with ‘Sunny After Moon’ which comes as a bit of a shock after ‘..Bad Day’ – steely, almost country guitars morphing into an upbeat techno world music hoe down. What else would you expect! It will be interesting to see where JuJu go next, I have a feeling it will be on a grand scale and even more visionary than this one!
Enjoy Yourself! caught a live set from JuJu at the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and we were impressed with the sound and performance. Some of the subtlety of the record didn’t come across – but it was before i’d heard the album anyway – but that’s not too surprising in a live setting. There was some blisteringly heavy guitar going down, sheets of white noise and full on psych assault. Of the bands I saw there for the first time they were the standout for me (and feedback I’ve seen suggests they were a highlight for quite a few people), and now that I’ve heard ‘Our Mother Was A Plant’ I will be chasing them down next time they hit the UK…can’t help thinking that it would be a spectacular event if we could combine the JuJu sound with the EY! light show treatment, music like this deserves that extra special something that changes a gig into an event …death by beautiful things…
JuJu: ‘Our Mother Was A Plant’ (Fuzz Club) LP review
Gary Powell writes album reviews & takes band photos at the Liverpool International Festival of Pyschedelia for Enjoy Yourself! In his spare time he performs voodoo rituals with his pet snake.