The nomadic Aussie trio return bleary-eyed with a mind-altering second album with melody at its heart
Jagwar Ma don’t just have one home any more. The Australian psych/dance trio have built studios in Sydney, north London and rural France, and in the three years since their debut, ‘Howlin’’, they’ve toured all over alongside the likes of The xx and Foals. Most recently they supported Tame Impala on their arena dates at the start of the year, and they’re feeling so dislocated that frontman Gabriel Winterfield recently told Stereogum, “I literally don’t live anywhere right now.”
The same is true of ‘Every Now And Then’, their shape-shifting second album. Winterfield brings guitar and vocals to the mix; Jono Ma specialises in psychoactive synths, beats and production nous. With bass from Jack Freeman – and some guest drumming from Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa – they’ve recorded a set of malleable, melody-packed tracks, some of which sound like they have multiple passports. Second single ‘Give Me A Reason’ is a prime example, skating from a single beat into a Madchester funk, before reaching a deep house apex where Winterfield does an amazingly ridiculous spoken word bit about a dance called The Amoeba that’s not far off DJ Caspar’s instructional 2004 dance craze ‘Cha-Cha Slide’. Jagwar Ma go big on the lols as well, it turns out.
Apart from ‘High Rotations’ – which sounds like a bad trip spent looking at a washing machine – Jagwar Ma don’t produce anything intentionally unmelodious. Big Brian Wilson fans, they’re really all about harmony, and a lot of ‘Every Now And Then’ is just a pleasure to listen to. ‘Say What You Feel’ is a dancey paean to artlessness (“Pride has no place in this room”); ‘Batter Up’ is a straightforwardly combative synth bomber; best of all is ‘Loose Ends’, a languid, low-slung groove that’ll raise any room’s humidity levels.
A lot of ‘Every Now And Then’ was recorded in the rural French studio they’ve compared to the doomed country retreat featured in cult comedy Withnail & I. And that fits, really, as the place this album had to have been made: somewhere haphazard and idiosyncratic, but weirdly brilliant. Perhaps they should’ve called it ‘Withnail & High’.