Review Summary: Simply put, Shango is superb.
Juno Reactor are, for those who can't be bothered to read band descriptions, an ever changing trance group who often find themselves throwing world music influences into their art as well as the occasional guest artist or two. Though some might find themselves a bit numb after reading the genre tag (imagining endless seas of fast paced syth lines and driving bass), Ben Watkins, the bands founding and central member, enjoys changing things up with each new album; the terms goa, trip-hop, world, industrial, and electronic all fit the band as well. Shango
is something of a novelty, as all the albums influences fit together so well; it's a very unique experience.
Interestingly enough this influence isn't held back for some later track, or woven slowly into a more tradition trance offering; “Pistolero” holds nothing back. Opening with the sounds of a spaghetti western sample, it soon turns into a toe tapping, flamenco guitar oriented ride. Spanish lines are thrown in and out of the mix as the music picks up the pace, each guitar note fitting the quasi-western/Spanish vibe while accompanied by low pounding drums and hair thin synth lines. One becomes pleasantly surprised to realize that not only does this collaboration work, but that it works on so many different levels; the trance beat infused with the wails of a Spanish woman, the hand clapping during the guitar solo's, the way the synth line is kept underneath the other sounds but still remains apparent to the keen listener, all these unit to form one song.
Though fun the world music is not always a fixture of each track; later the bands trance heritage becomes more apparent with “Insects” being a perfect, dark example. Strange sounds accost the listener as a near constant drum pattern that can only be harkened to a “swish” continues eerily in the background. A veritable smorgasbord of electronic sounds rise and fall throughout “Insects;” one similar to that of science fictions depiction of lazers weaves in and out, a chime is played briefly in the foreground, and a futurepop synth line enters only to die before coming to fruition. Though it might sound like a daunting affair this is all within three minutes of one song, Juno Reactor know how to reward the keen eared listener. “Masters Of The Universe” is more straightforward as well with its clear drum and bass lines. The wails found in “Pistolero” make a return here, as do the foreign vocals. One special aspect of the track are the tribal drums, as one cant help but imagine that they're being played by hand.
Atmosphere is something that Juno Reactor do very well, Shango
could very well have been a disaster if the layering and track listing had been even a bit off. With trance the nuances of an album are different from other genres; weak points aren't found in vocals or in the production qualities. The album's are meant to be an experience, either one enjoys the trip they find themselves taking or they don't. For example, even though “Solaris” might seem to the casual listener as if it's out of place compared to the faster paced “Masters Of The Universe” but it'd be a mistake to skip it; the slow start hides the tribal infused gem underneath. The ebb and flow of the album is essential to its existence, and any listener that has done drugs to album's similar in nature can attest to this.
Simply put Shango
is superb. From the wonders of “Pistolero” to the gorgeous vocals and ambiance on ending track “Song For Ancestors” this is an album that remains one of a kind. Watkins and co. have created something entirely different from the rest of Juno Reactors catalog, a feat that most definitely deserves praise. Innovation combined with creative use of world influences allow Shango
to remain an experience that is stunning in scope even if it may appear to be short when glancing at the track list. Though not an excellent starting place for those that don't enjoy the trance moniker or album's that are meant to be an almost spiritual experience Shango
is worth at least a small portion of the potential listeners time. Trance isn't as cookie cutter as it may appear, Shango