Juno Reactor: Shango

junr-s.jpg (15k) Juno Reactor: Shango
(Blue Room - 2000)

Returning to prove he can indeed play well with others, Juno Reactor's leader Ben Watkins writes and collaborates with various friends in track after track of dazzling electronica which is as beautiful as it is aggressive. Taking on several varying personalities, Shango never loses sight of it main objective... to groove into new directions and to do so amazingly well.

Dozens of spicy seasonings point Southward as Pistolero opens fire; gunplay, sexily uttered Spanish phrases and mariachi wails blend with driving electronics and whirling beats. Extended passages of spritely acoustic guitarplay transcend what mere sampled snippets can add. A streaming torrent of genuine African drumming (courtesy of Mabi Thobejane and members of Amampondo) empower Hule Lam (4:00) with a furious rhythm laced with vigorous chants and rippling synthwaves. The deep, hypnotic pulsations of Insects are a collaboration between Watkins and Mike Maguire

More Dark-Continent-Goes-Tecnho realms are undertaken by way of thundering Badimo. Middle-Eastern-flavored diva vocals are layered over big, bounding synth leads as Masters of the Universe is enjoined by trilling e-piano and rapidly beaten jungle drums. Trancey waves undulate, pounded by Nitrogen Part 1's intensity-shifting beats; the orb's Alex Paterson contributes his own electro-psychedelic touches to this flammable element, which drops into a mellower pace soon before it transmutes into...

Nitrogen Part 2, which zooms through starry nighttime skies powered by sinuous bass riffs and metallically clattering percussion. Beatless soundscapes spread with languid heat over the scorching surface of Solaris (8:58); a smoldering haze hangs as elastic flute strands waver in the air, though the entrancing exotica takes a drummier turn as ethnorhythms (favoring restrained primitive patterns over modern techno) and grumbling vocals seep into the scene. In another low-key, decidely non-electro number, strummed strings and passionate female wails sing a Song for Ancestors amid shaker rhythms and tribalistic yips and whispers, then symphonic overtones and kettledrums. Glowering moods and crazed laughter lead toward a growing crescendo involving all players, which is shut down by fading, buzzing layers of synth.

I've been waiting for this one... Juno Reactor again hits hard with vivid (if somewhat bombastic for an ambient palate) electronic excursions, and if Shango loses a couple percentage-points of the sheer catchiness offered by its predecessor (1997's Bible of Dreams), it gains ten by exploring more complicated arrangments. 9.0

Blue Room has more, as do www.reactorleak.com and www.reactorcore.com

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This review posted November 29, 2000

AmbiEntrance © 2000-1997 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).