Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Junip Sets Itself Up In The Line Of Fire

Although the upcoming eponymous album by Swedish band Junip isn't due out until April, the early release of its first single is enough to pique interest in it as a slightly overdue studio session. The 6-minute track Line Of Fire poignantly questions every second of our lives and every choice we ever made.

"What would you do if it all came back to you? Each crest of each wave bright as lightning. What would you say if you had to leave today? Leave everything behind even though for once you're shining."

The lyrics alone would be enough to touch a nerve, but it's the bolder and fuller instrumental along with the shimmer in singer-songwriter-guiartist José González's voice that builds a convincing case. Line Of Fire might be the best song ever written and produced by the band.

The atmosphere is right. The pitch is perfect. The steadily incessant and comforting drone of it hums along with the contemplative pace that captures time as something infinite and fleeting all at once.

Line Of Fire burns as Junip's brightest moment. 

Every second of the sweeping track is memorable, especially as González leads the Gothenburg trio in a subtle and sustained ever-growing build. What begins as a lightly plucked guitar drifts into steady percussion by Elias Araya on drums and soft atmospheric synth work by Tobias Winterkorn on keys.

The krautrock repetition (or perhaps Ethiopian influenced repetition as Araya has described it) foreshadows exactly where the song is going even if it still feels unpredictable. It's nothing short of an accomplishment as a stunning alternative pop song — mysterious and memorable.

Much like the band suggested on Facebook, Line Of Fire plays best when you are sitting down, staring into the sparseness of the visual while taking in the fullness of the sound. It's somewhere about three minutes in when there comes a realization that this isn't the band that released the album Fields three years ago.

Sure, Fields was critically acclaimed and the temperament of the band is intact, but the album never really achieved the same emotional fullness or boldness of Line Of Fire. Much like the song asks, it seems Junip has finally stopped asking what might happen if they settled down long enough to write and record an entire album — something they have always wanted to do but never had time.

The long history of Junip tied together by short sprints. 

Given González has a successful solo career, it's easy to forget that he and Araya have been playing together since they were 14. Junip would come later, however, after they met Winterkorn almost 20 years ago and started talking about what they might play if they weren't going play hardcore. So they set their sights on 60s and 70s, with nylon strings and a Moog.

What they didn't have was time. Although the band was somewhat formed before 2000, they would never produce anything until much later. In 2005, they released an EP instead. And even since then, although Junip has become a priority from time to time, putting out material has been sporadic. Even with the release of Fields, some of it seemed half-baked despite all the praise.

If the upcoming album is anything like the single, this won't be the case. As much as Fields found the right sound, it took another three years for the trio find their soul. Line of Fire is solid, a true stunner.

Line Of Fire By Junip Soars With 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

For even someone who is more inclined to seek out hardcore over Swedish folk kraut like me, there is every reason to give Line Of Fire a listen. From start to finish, the single delivers on the psychic soul, finding that exceptional balance between reflecting on how short it all was while finding peace at the end of it.

Line Of Fire was originally released as a single on iTunes (no B-side). You can also download Line of Fire from Amazon. The album will be out in April, which Junip will follow up with a tightly packed tour in May. The early tour dates are currently posted on Facebook. Your life. Your call.
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