Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Jungle Fire at the Echoplex

On November 9, three bands came together to play at the Echoplex in Los Angeles. The latter two, Monophonics and Orgone, were powerfully impressive bands in their own right. The first, Jungle Fire, has been making waves in Southern California for two years with their latin afro-beat jazz funk reggae dance soul nigh-indescribable sound.

What is this band that almost accidentally occurred when several musicians with strange auditory tastes got into the same room back in 2011 just for a one-off, but now is about to tour the United Kingdom? Well there's a lot of things that they are not. Despite the perfection of their horn section and the clear influence of African and South American musical traditions, this is not by any means what one would call "world music." And further, there's no fusion about it. This is not a novelty, not a niche, not a cunningly orchestrated repackaging of some hidden gem from some exotic part of the world (although clearly these musicians have done their homework and have in their souls and their skin and their bones rhythms from far away places).

So what is it? It seems the difficulty in giving Jungle Fire's music an accurate description is caused at least in part by the fact that this really is a genuinely new kind of music.

Immediately after seeing them for the first time last January at this same venue when they opened for Budos Band, I wrote a review in my almost inarticulable awe at their tangible power.  Having seen them several times in the LA areas--twice at the Del Monte Speakeasy, once at the Echo, and now twice at the Echoplex--I think they're just now finding their sound. This recent show on November 9 had a power, an easy strength unseen in earlier shows, although all their performances have given evidence of musical prowess and a firm precision among the band members. The addition of a nearly-psychadelic guitar background to the funk afro/latin beat percussion and bass has completed the sonorous structure and promises to be a rock upon which future composers and musical minds seeking for influences will anchor their own creations.  The band is terribly tight, and not only are they superb musicians, but their enjoyment of what they are doing captures an audience instantly. All these musicians show sprezzatura, an effortless precision, a freedom of musical movement that has the underpinnings of studied excellence. The sound is infectious, and it's not overstating the case to say that everyone who has seen them live has the sense of witnessing a change in the future of music.

"Comencemos," a cover of Fela Kuti's "Let's Start," has made the rounds among noted djs in LA clubs. Media attention steadily grows. My personal favorite is without question Firewalker; when I first heard them play this at the Echoplex my jaw dropped at the powerful funk-disco bassline under the latin-flavored guitar, percussion and horns. Already this tune has had some play in the UK on radio stations, featured on Canadian music blogger's well-perused page, and has raised some clamorous response from some knowledgeable people in the overseas music crowd. And recordings aside, this band's live shows have been gathering a following that has been visibly increasing in numbers, exuberance, and influence.

With two 7" single releases out on Colemine ("Comencemos" and "Firewalker"), Jungle Fire is working on a full length LP, but in the meantime is headed to the UK this week to play the following dates:

November 29 - Bangor, UK - Hendre Hall
November 30 - Manchester, UK - Band On The Wall
December 1 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds
December 3 - Colchester, UK - Colchester Arts Centre
December 4 - London, UK - 229 The Venue
December 5 - Bristol, UK - Fiddlers Club
December 6 - Newcastle, UK - Hoochie Coochie
December 7 - Leeds, UK - The Wardrobe

Tour details can be found at the Jungle Fire website. If you are in the UK and can make any of these dates, I strongly encourage you to go see them. It is a new sound, it is an impossibly, irrepressibly danceable show to see, it is an evening you will brag about for decades. Jungle Fire are going to change the planet.

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