'Hidden' is the first full studio album from this group of dutch lads, who retain their youthful exuberance and innocent energy, and delve deeper into their own sound. Moving slightly away from the afro-beat blueprint that characterized last year's self-titled debut LP, the nine-piece have added Gamelan tones and studio effects to their afro-funk template, as well as exploring other parts of Africa like Mali's desert soul and djembe rhythms from Senegal. After two years of playing, and having performed over 80 gigs last year, the group have settled in their own rhythm, and 'Hidden' sees them trying out new ideas and forms.
Still keeping the unit strictly instrumental, one strength of Jungle By Night is their innate sense of democracy - the quality control of the hive mind. Tracks are jammed out and developed from the rehearsal room to the stage, keeping the audience in mind all the time. 'Hidden' feels very much like a live record, in the vein of classic jazz albums for example, while at the same time utilizing all the digital options that todays recording techniques have to offer.ξ
The album opener 'Rangda' marks this new improved version of the band, using selected pieces of Gamelan. "Two of our band members, their families are from Indonesia, and their houses are loaded with gamelan instruments. But the Gamelan tunings have little to do with western tunings. It just sounds eerie, hypnotic and mysterious," said the band. 'Rangda' nods to the spirit of early Tortoise and mid-90's MoWax, and while Jungle By Night know how to stick to what they do best, they're partial to the odd experimental excursion too.ξ
The album is laid out by a group who clearly understand live dynamics, building the tension of the first half of the LP with the tight riffs of 'Togetherness', the mix of west-coast organ and plaintive horns of '2 Days Before 2012' and 'Gallowstreet 34', which could easily soundtrack the 70's edition of GTA Addis Ababa. Mid-way through the album also points to an interesting path, the drum-less ambience of 'Night Fight', a duel of thumb pianos and slide guitar, awash with delays and reverbs, evoking fireflies and glow worms amid the nocturnal jungle creatures.ξ
In the second half, tracks like 'Ethiopino', 'The Past Is History' and 'Marsvin' represent what Jungle By Night do best - taut, multi-layered grooves that are perfect for dancing to, or any other nocturnal activity you like to indulge in. One thing the boys know how to do is find the pocket and lock it, playing around with time signatures while keeping it dynamic. Perhaps the album's surprise gem is 'Ghettos Of The Mind', a languid, Tuareg-inspired roller where you can almost hear the wind whistling across the desert in the background. Producer Wiboud Burkens (Leon Ware, Michael Franti, Carleen Anderson, N'Dambi) has certainly helped craft the complex JBN dynamics into a coherent shape, which has allowed the band to play and experiment without having to worry about the final sound.ξ
'Hidden' demonstrates natural talent and sensibility, but there's something more at work. While those outside the bubble will try to pinpoint or uncover the band's appeal and what makes them tick, somewhere between the many layers of sounds and rhythm, between the audience and the players, lies a connection that can't really be explained. Jungle By Night know better than to shine too bright a light on it.ξ