JAGWAR MA – HOWLIN’

Words: Joshua Nevett
June 6, 2013

Crafting electronically-laced guitar music you can [kind of] dance to has become a lacklustre affair, if the heady shtick of recent dance floor apostles has been anything to go by. Delphic’s ‘Acolyte’ paddled in the murky, serotonin depraved waters of the Hacienda – as did The Rapture’s ‘In The Grace Of Your Love’ – but […]


Crafting electronically-laced guitar music you can [kind of] dance to has become a lacklustre affair, if the heady shtick of recent dance floor apostles has been anything to go by. Delphic’s ‘Acolyte’ paddled in the murky, serotonin depraved waters of the Hacienda – as did The Rapture’s ‘In The Grace Of Your Love’ – but the winning formula was ultimately evasive, as the outcome was more a derivative castration of the phenomenon, than a belated reawakening of the chemical generation. It seems recalling the disenchanted sheen of the late-80s Madchester scene has become sort of a go-to touchstone in terms of straddling the chasm between rock and dance music, and it’s become evident that hitting that idiosyncratic sweet spot in 2013 takes more than just a drunken synth-line and a few wanton shakes of an antiquated maraca.

Ticking all of these boxes and more is Australia duo JAGWAR MA: comprised of producer (and partial namesake) Jono Ma and vocalist Gabriel Winterfield. Having teased us with a vivacious slew of tie-dye dipped releases last year (‘The Throw’ and ‘Come Save Me’), it comes as no surprise that the woozy motifs of their transatlantic forebears are prevalent reference points for rumination on their debut LP ‘Howlin’. It’s all too easy to crystallise the stylistic similarities they share with their bedfellows, however, its Jagwar Ma’s digital oeuvre paired with a dysfunctional reinterpretation of 60s psych that really plucks ‘Howlin’’ from the linear cesspit of ill-fitting disco-rock tragedies.

Stoner grooves and sun-kissed pop melodies are omnipresent from the offset, as opener ‘What Love’ saunters haplessly upon steady, slow-burning aural rays until a dazed and confused refrain, by way of Ian Brown, chimes. Just the simple mechanics of ‘Howlin’’ are a puzzle to coalesce; each track transiently flitting through semblances of derivative styles. They borrow the baggy, funk-driven grooves and 808 percussion of The Happy Mondays for ‘The Throw’, while intertextualising the sugar coated harmonies of The Beach Boys on ‘Come Save Me’ to transcend both their geographical and cultural genealogy.

It’s a record that scarcely feels cohesive with the sum of its parts, but not without lust and longing for an explicit definition in the form of its singular sequences. And that’s where ‘Howlin’s’ true success lies: in each individual track’s stand-alone nuances. Whether it’s the electro inflections of ‘That Loneliness’, the four-to-the-floor stomp of ‘Four’, or the visceral pop romp of ‘Let Her Go’; none of them outstay their welcome or feel misplaced despite their myriad differences, a coherence that producer Ewan Pearson has clearly had a hand in procuring. There’s still more than enough slinky, washed-out guitar to keep those rock ‘n’ rave aesthetes under the thumb as well, but Jagwar Ma are a multi-faceted beast with a collection of songs ready-made for twisting your melons on debauched nights, all summer long.




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