Junip, Kyu @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (04/01/2011)

The Corner Hotel was near capacity for the performance of Jose Gonzalez’s new-but-old band Junip, as the Swedish trio promote their 2010 debut album Fields. This writer was under the impression that the solo artist-come-band member was the obvious draw card for the event, until the hardcore fan in front of me at the merchandise stand asked the man himself if he was part of the band, to which Gonzales replied (modestly to his credit) “uh..yes..i’m the singer”. So maybe to some, it is in fact a band with Jose Gonzalez, and not vice versa. I’m sure the singer had an equal train of thought, as he asked punters’ permission before allowing other band members to sign memorabilia, with fear they may be unknown and signatures unwanted. But I digress.

Opening with the twinkling single Pixiphony, quirky Sydney electronica duo Kyu busted out song after song of celestial electronic pop. With harmonized vocals, combined drumming, sweeping keys, and some weird, yet awesome chest slapping, the mood was set for psychedelic sounds which put the crowd into the trance-like state it would sit in for the remainder of the night. The multitasking of the duo is something to both be marvelled at and applauded, taking on the responsibility of countless instruments and sounds, it might make you think that Arcade Fire have a case of redundancy.

Junip’s turn was up, taking to the stage with two additional members to add some bass and extra percussion respectively. The lights dimmed, calls for Jose and hypnotic hums rang throughout the Corner Hotel. The humming is halted and met by the strum of an acoustic guitar alone, followed by the crashing drums from Elias Araya for opening track Rope and Summit. It’s an array of psych-folk that fits perfectly with Gonzalez’s soaring vocals. As he sing “you better wake up”, it was hard to know if you actually were awake, as the music cast such a dream-like state throughout the venue. The lead singer says a quick hello and then it’s back to the music, drifting into the organ-tuned-keyboard driven track Black Refuge from the 2005 EP of the same name.

Gonzalez takes a brief moment to speak to the crowd, in which he introduces all members of the band, who are all chatting casually on stage. He points out that they are speaking Swedish amongst each other, and as my urge to yell out a Muppet chef-based comment arose, the modest frontman beats me to it, drawing a warm laugh from himself and the crowd before breaking into To The Grain.

Gonzales announces the next song, as one “about free will…and stuff”. Howl ensues with lowered, almost mumbled vocals, driving beat, and heavy bass. It’s significantly more fast paced then the majority of Junip’s efforts, but the crowd remains unmoved and silent. Not that this is a slight on the band; their music just assumes tranquillity. But while silence falls throughout every song, at the end rapturous applause, whistling and shouting come from just about every angle of the room.

A sense of serene, chilled-out gloom permeated throughout the crowd as Gonzalez’s slow-burning vocals are met by with par-greatness from organ/keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn on six-minute epic Tide.

It-should-of-been-played-at-Woodstock number, It’s Alright, was the high note of the show. Finger-plucked, seesaw guitar riff, intertwining with ricocheted bass, made the Corner Hotel – with its large brown pillars- seem like a forest in its autumn ambience, and as the band got sucked into groove the song picked up in pace, before concluding with an all out psychedelic jam.

Closing up the show was Fields’ hit single In Every Direction. Gonzalez’s voice rolled translucently over the rocky keyboard, fuzzy bass, and bouncing drums and it was a fine way to close the main set. The band returned for an encore with a triumphant combination of EP track The Ghost of Tom Joads and Without You.

Take nothing away from Junip; their performance was one of great orchestration and delivery that withered away the claims that they’re a solo artist, with his mates backing him up. They are far more an equal collective. But while they created a serene atmosphere with their own breed of chill-folk, the presence of a silence-induced-crowd may of taken away some of the magic of the gig, and at times made it feel perhaps more like a golf reception.

Check out photos from the gig here