Say Psych: Album Review: Juju – Maps and Territory

Gioele Valenti is set to release Maps & Territory, the new album of Juju, out on 29 May through Fuzz Club Records. The follow up to Our Mother Was A Plant from 2017, Maps & Territory reaffirms and at the same time transcends Juju’s unique formula. A blend of Neo-psychedelia and Mediterranean folk, new wave and African polyrhythms, the sound of Juju is now deconstructed, reassembled and expanded, even bordering jazz territories with the contribution avant-garde composer and improviser Amy Denio.

Like a marching crab that steadily climbs from the deepness of an abyss up into the moon-shine, Valenti emerged slowly and persistently from the semi-obscurity of experimental folk influenced Italian lo-fi scene, into the spotlight of contemporary psych nouveau. Starting in 2000 with his project Herself, he released seven albums, first aided by nationally prominent Italian band Verdena, then by Amaury Cambuzat of Ulan Bator and Faust. His most recent release as Herself, 2018’s Rigel Playground, inaugurated his collaboration with Donahue, who sang in the beautiful single ‘Beast of Love’ and invited him to support Mercury Rev’s Italian tour.

Valenti’s first and self-titled LP as Juju was released in 2016 via American label Sunrise Ocean Bender. By that time he was no fresher in the psych scene and in 2014 he had joined forces with Nicola Giunta, writing the lyrics for and co-producing the debut LP of Lay Llamas,  Østrø which was released on Rocket Recordings. The album very quickly became a classic in the Italian occult psych niche genre. The following year, Valenti supported Goat on tour all across Europe, playing with Lay Llamas and also as the guitarist for Josefin Öhrn And The Liberation before starting his collaboration with Fuzz Club in 2017. That same year, the band intrigued the crowds of Liverpool Festival Of Psychedelia, and in 2018 they were one of the highlights at Fuzz Club Eindhoven festival.

Juju’s debut LP drew inspiration from earth magic and Mediterranean neo-paganism as a pretext to tell the story of the current African exodus. The follow up was a lysergic and pantheistic tribute to the archaic and Man’s metaphorical descendance from plants: a clear allusion to common source of humanity and to the equality of all men, reflected in the symbolic cover photo of the black motorcycle gang, A Chosen Few. The new album, coming out in a time of Trump’s America, Brexit Britain, disobedient Italy, walled Hungary and French Gilets Jaunes, reflects on the ever expanding and contracting reality of the territory, against its physical and ideological representation on the map.

Opener ‘Master and Servants’ is a jam compiled between a Tuareg tribe and kraut rock influence ensemble, with the result being a hearty piece with bite that traverses the world psychedelia genre and more classical rock influences effortlessly. It’s a track that evolves as it progresses, offering more twists than a sidewinder, keeping the listener guessing and takes a few listens to truly appreciate. First single ‘I’m In Trance’ features Goatman himself and features the characteristic percussion that has become synonymous with his name. It’s a spine-tingling entity due to a chant like energy that exudes and from the first beat it captivates, keeping firm hold throughout. Other highlights include ‘God Is A Rover’ with its foot tapping rhythm and ‘Archontes Take Control’ which offers up Ethopian jazz, smashed together with psych and bits of electronica.

Having been a fan of Juju for some time, I was eager for the next album and curious as to how it would sound, one thing is for sure, it doesn’t disappoint, he’s produced another album that can go up there with the best psychedelia has to offer.

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