On The List :: Jungle @ Mercury Lounge [3.9.14]
This review runs first and with much better pictures on Bowery Presents House List.
Mysterious London outfit Jungle, a synth-funk project that remains sonically faithful to the implied wild in its name, took the stage as none other than themselves at Mercury Lounge last night for their second-ever U.S. show. The band has remained largely anonymous and didn’t even appear in the XL Recordings–sponsored video for their debut single, “Busy Earnin’,” and their Soundcloud avatar is a collection of cartoon jungle animals. Some of this image making rang appropriate for a band about to descend on SXSW with the seemingly self-possessed knowledge that they are about to be a very, very big act. In real life, as the kids say, Jungle arrived as an actual human five-piece, hustling to the stage under the cover of darkness—their anonymity preserved for one last instant—to the sounds of the jungle over the PA, squawking birds and a recorded voice-over: “Our friends from the jungle have finally found a cure.”
It was a band doing a band. The narrative slammed backward into the counternarrative: The bassist wore a Members Only jacket with the word jungle written in lowercase across the back. The lights came up and it was time for the band to be a band. Sounding exceptionally tight and in complete control, Jungle opened with “The Heat,” a song, like many of their tracks, that features sirens. It’s a musical street drama with a 1970s filter, a blaxploitation movie as done by four dudes and a girl from London, Shaft coming to indie-rock circles. As the evening unfolded, the group’s prowess for making dance music never fought actively with this crafting of narrative, the performance-art component never obfuscating the fun. With an intro that also featured sounds of the police, Jungle played “Lucky I Got What I Want” before running through “Crime” and “Drops.”
The set closed with the stunning single “Busy Earnin’,” easily one of the best contributions to late-night people everywhere in 2014, the soundtrack for a never-was cop drama in which the audience openly roots for the criminals, and the appropriately imperial “Platoon.” The latter unwired in spectacular fashion, Jungle unleashing their technical, stylized selves with focus and intensity. The goal was to transport the listener somewhere humid, fecund and dangerous, a more committed version of the music that briefly made Miike Snow famous. Afterward, Jungle, as they slid back down the sidewall of Mercury Lounge, were headed in two directions at once: To take the listener to their terrifying wilds and to come out of the woods to run rampant through civilization.