JuJu is the project of Italian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti who also works with Lay Llamas. Following on from his successful debut album in 2016, Valenti has teamed up with Fuzz Club Records to release second LP Our Mother Was A Plant on 22nd September, the same day he is billed to return to Liverpool Psych Fest.
Being loosely, and I use the term very loosely, categorised as psychedelic rock, JuJu offers a sound not easy to pin down, being influenced as much by afrobeat and funk, electronica and drone rock as psychedelia. JuJu is one of the very few left who isn’t afraid to truly push the boundaries within sound and social acceptance, which results in albums that mark him apart from the herd.
Opening number ‘Death by Beautiful Things’ channels everything from electronic psych riffs, to gospel chorus style vocal harmonies, all underpinned by a motorik drum beat that would appeal to anyone of a krautrock persuasion. ‘In A Ghetto’ features a guest appearance from Capra Informis, the djembe player in Swedish world music psych aficionados Goat and channels a hint of their energy throughout the track. Not to mention the use of a mizmar which evokes images of nights spent drifting through Moroccan souks. ‘And Play a Game’ introduces playful electronic sounds and reverberating guitar to a heady mix of vocals, with a Neu! vibe glittering just below the surface.
‘James Dean’ channels more of your traditional psychedelic sounds with fuzzy, reverberated guitars peddling a catchy repeated riff. ‘I Got Your Soul’ transports you to the heart of Harlem with is funky soul sound, which is juxtaposed by its chorus style vocals. ‘Patrick’ offers subtle hints towards an indie rock sound, yet is executed so superbly it cannot be anything but respected.
‘What A Bad Day’ layers sounds to create textures which are eerily reminiscent of the Hacienda days of Manchester’s recent past, underpinned throughout by a menacing drum beat and hefty bass line. Concluding we have ‘Sunny After Moon’, which also features Informis. The light, airy track offers a reprieve after the last track with its melodic, almost country style interlaced with electronic noise and frantic djembe playing. The clash of styles is done with such finesse it’s easy to get lost within its depths.
Even more adventurous that its predecessor, Our Mother Was A Plant offers a sound hard to pigeon hole into the usual suspects as it summons all kids of entities with its rhythmic, otherworldly blend of cultures and shamanic mantras. If more albums like this existed, the term ‘psychedelic rock’ would leave less cringing and more running to the nearest record store.