Jagwar Ma, the Australian psych-soul electronic duo consisting of Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield, have been recruiting a vast array of fans via a succession of radio-friendly tracks and support slots with The xx and Foals of late. Their 'Howlin'' album is brimming with joie de vivre, and their status as THE feelgood nu baggy act of the summer — informed by electronics — seems assured.
One dance fan is Richard Norris from The Grid/Time & Space Machine, who has remixed Jagwar Ma recently. “They sound like now,” Richard tells DJ Mag. “Technicolour, expansive, uplifting, great harmonies and only a hint of a cloud in the sky. It was a great pleasure to remix them, as the parts were immaculate and easily led to psychedelic, Balearic and dub avenues — a winner for me.
” Indeed, album opener 'What Love' deals in a Death In Vegas hypnotic groove overlain with Big Star bigness and surfed by Beach Boys harmonies. 'Uncertainty' utilises Beatles 'Because'-style vocals over a clanging minimal techno bassline and bicycle-powered jaunty beats, while 'The Throw' has a swirly Happy Mondays feel. Elsewhere, 'Come Save Me' boasts the kooky bubblegum vibes of Bobby Darin, 'Four' has a looped Alt-J vox and an Etienne De Crecy 'Fast Track' b-line, 'Man I Need' is how the Stone Roses should be sounding now, and 'Backwards Berlin' is blissed-out Spiritualized psychedelia.
Jono suggests to DJ Mag that the loose psychedelic soul in Jagwar Ma's sound probably comes from his use of old equipment. “I used an 808 quite a bit on the record, and all the synths are old analog things,” he says. “Maybe that helped bring the acidity?”
The band started when Sydney residents Gab and Jono found that they shared a love of '50s and '60s R&B, soul and garage – and wanted to take a modern approach to those styles of music. They were in other bands, but slowly found their Jagwar Ma stuff taking precedent. “I like electronic music and I like bands, the number of people makes no difference to me or the music,” Jono tells DJ Mag, “but having been in a band previously with five members it's nice working as a duo with Gab. He can focus on vocals, and I can focus on the sounds. Keeps it simple and direct.”
When they play live, without a drummer, Gab sings and plays guitar while Jono runs a bunch of synths, samplers and drum machines – with their mate Jack thumping away on bass.
Much of the album was produced by Berlin-based UK producer Ewan Pearson – he mixed the record and did some additional synths on a few tracks. “I've been friends with Ewan for years, we've worked on a bunch of things in the past, and he was one of the first people I played our first completed track to,” Jono says. “He liked it, so I got him onboard for mixing duties.”
Recorded in the middle of the French countryside, where they were completely left to their own devices, the album looks set to be a word of mouth summer gem.
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