Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Jungle - Oval Space, London 23/05/14

26 May 2014, 16:47 | Written by Kathleen Prior

Launching themselves behind a smoke screen of anonymity, Jungle immediately claimed a sizeable stake on the blogosphere. “That break-dancing girl video” was ubiquitous - and before long the internet was as awash with speculation as it was with their neo-soul grooves.

Now duly revealed (exposed?) as the musical project of childhood friends Josh and Tom from West London - though still no band photo released - their debut album is out on XL Recordings on July 14th. It has been a long time coming.

This is the third London headliner gig for the band that perform as a seven-piece- and it sold out months ago. Tonight, Oval Space is full of young and beautiful hipsters. It feels like we have accidentally turned up to a chiselled jaw convention.

Bunches of high-fiving trendies chatter and jostle, and the energy is effervescent. Then as the Jungle logo brands the back screen like the title of an HBO series, there is a distended roar. A police siren spins into the room and the crowd escapes the ghetto and are whisked to a New York rooftop party where the air is full of razzamatazz beats with a twinkling skyline of synths.

As they croon “I know I can’t feel the heat”, I have to smirk at the irony. Tonight is a sweatbox. Sexy young blonde to my right is wearing a beanie. “Fuck, its hot!” she’s laughs, “But I would rather take my top off than my hat!”. Oh I remember back when style surpassed comfort for me too, and I laugh a little. But not too much, as I don’t want to reveal my crinkles.

Their newest track, “Time”, first aired the day before by Zane Lowe, is impeccably performed. It includes all the features that make their sound so instantly recognisably - rising synth scales, swirling retro percussion and scattered samples. Not to mention the vocals; as creamy and rich as molten gold.

Despite being rooted in London’s grime, with videos shot in a grey concrete estate and an empty warehouse, the sound is decadent. It has the feel of a party that Kanye West might attend. Here, at Oval Space the party is more reminiscent of a scene from Skins. Rather than rows of adoring fans facing their musical idols, the crowd are every which way. Many seem more interested in showcasing their own moves, while girls get pulled onto successive shoulders in a show of manly bravado. When arms get thrown into the air for a cheer, we’re greeted with a warm waft of Lynx. But it’s fun - and we bounce and bump around like the best of them. Though we do stop short of joining in the ‘oo-wa oo-wa”.

”Busy Earnin’” starts up with brassy fanfare and Jet Li style whoops. Its cascading waterfall keys are ramped up with a sound that might accompany a wand-waving Disney fairy and that sprinkles the heavy use of drones with glitter.

In removing the visual identity of the band - as the duo said “You don’t want to look at our ugly mugs anyway!” - focus is forced onto the sound. Strangely, I didn’t even totter on tiptoes to catch every glimpse of them perform. I just listened and danced with my head in the crowd.

Now it seems funny to look back on the reports of Jungle which made the mistake of assuming they are the people in the videos. I’ve seen people write about Jungle’s “matching turquoise Adidas shell suits” (that would be skate-dance duo High Rollaz) or referring to them as a dance collective (no, that would be the dancers!). Would we have been so hypnotised if we knew from the beginning that Jungle were just two lads from Shepherds Bush?

The hype surrounding their promo video trilogy began with a 6-year old breakdancer from Wolverhampton called B-Girl Terra (no mistaken identity there). Whether it was her or the music that made the video go viral is definitely up for debate. As I write numerous sites are reporting that the video has received over 4million views (the counter clearly states just under 750,000). Yet more evidence of the Chinese whispers that saw Jungle’s name spread like wildfire and had viral marketeers marvelling at their strategy.

Tonight, Jungle save “‘Platoon” for an encore. They shout, “You have been amazing. Every single one of you!”, as their hedonistic disco funk belts out. Its smiles and fancy footwork all round – though the song now feels a little stale nearly one year after its release.

I worry that Jungle have been eking out their introduction for so long, that their crowning moment may have passed, suffocated by their own saturation. As my friend said as we left: “It felt like we were too late to the party”.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next
Babel Marriage cover


22 Sept 2023
Bakar Halo cover


22 Sept 2023
Doja Cat Scarlet cover

Doja Cat

22 Sept 2023