(see also our Concert Review)
I was introduced to the world of Psychedelic/Goa Trance via Juno Reactor's Beyond The Infinite album, the third release for the project. So I'm a latecomer to their material. But by now I'm quasi-versed in their sound, a virtually trademarked fusion of trance and ambient. Why am I quasi-versed? Because Beyond The Infinite wasn't merely an introduction to hard techno for me, it was practically a religious text of how aggressive electronic music should sound, and Juno Reactor remained my trance-messiahs until I heard the 'Element Over Nature' project and 'X-Dream'. But I digress.. I love Juno Reactor, and I pretty much always have. So imagine my surprise upon finding this little gem of an advance copy in my mailbox yesterday.
Recently signed to the seemingly unstoppable powerhouse label Metropolis, Juno Reactor stand out as one of the most established acts signed to Metropolis. Formed in the early 90's as a soundtrack project, Juno Reactor has released 2 albums on NovaMute records ('Transmissions' and 'Luciana') as well as 2 albums on BlueRoom records ('Beyond The Infinite' and 'Bible Of Dreams'). And now we have the fifth offering, "Shango" (The Nigerian God of Thunder.. Viva le Nigerian Gods, if they all come wrapped in soundtracks this cool...). Continually growing in sound and scope, "Shango" is perhaps the most ambitious offering yet from Juno Reactor, and thankfully that ambition is not beyond the reach of Juno Reactor's creative abilities. This slab of shiny plastic stuff kicks off with an extremely imaginative blend of spanish classic guitar and traditional psy-trance. Sound unlikely? Not at all. 'Pistolero' captures all the energy of spaghetti westerns, bull-whipped into shape with cyberpunk sensibilities. An interesting post-it note to the track is the inclusion of Steve Stevens (Ex-Billy Idol guitarist) handling the fretwork. Following 'Pistolero', the equally creative but more energetic 'Hulelam' pounds at us with a fabulous swing-jungle-breakbeat feel.
For these two tracks alone this album is worth paying full price. Following these tracks is 7 standard Juno Reactor songs. That is to say, very good. But not as ground breaking as the first two tracks. All the hyper-mood established in the first two tracks gives way to ambient washes, music that fits flawlessy as the backdrop to a cyberpunk novel. The addition of Alex Paterson (The Orb)does offer some nice polish, though. Juno Reactor seem to be developing a habit with this sort of thing, as 'Bible Of Dreams' was the same way. Pound for pound, however.. This is the strongest I've heard Juno Reactor since the 'Samurai' single from 'Beyond The Infinite'. No small praise, trust me. Slated for an October 17th release, Shango seems, to my ears, destined to squash dancefloors all over the world. "Shango" is a welcome reminder that there is still glorious creativity lurking out there....
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