Jagwar Ma – ‘Howlin’

The Aussie duo’s trippy, yet daredevil, guitar-dance debut

“The future of the galaxy depends on the Temples and Jagwar Ma records,” Noel Gallagher told NME last month. “If those two records are right, the imperial forces will be defeated.” No pressure, then. Luckily Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield were compiling ‘Howlin’ on the other side of the world in Sydney, unaware of the expectant gaze of a man of whose patronage Winterfield has said: “That’s ridiculous. Noel was my hero…”

If Winterfield is an Oasis fan, it’s not apparent in Jagwar Ma’s sound, which fuses dance and guitar music in a way that hasn’t been done for 20 years. Their album lives on some retro-futuristic dancefloor where the DJ drops old-school piano house, The Beach Boys and ‘Screamadelica’ in quick succession. If that makes it seem like ‘Howlin’ just references genres your dad got off his tits to, be happy that its origins are in a different place. In ‘Backwards Berlin’ and more, we hear hints of chillwave in the band’s DNA – perhaps that movement was good for something after all.

The best – and simplest – trick Jagwar Ma have pulled off is delivering an album with no rubbish on it. The first three tracks alone give us the trippy repetition of ‘What Love’, the plucked rubber-band synths of ‘Uncertainty’ and the chiming cacophony of former single ‘The Throw’. Before long, the next element of Jagwar Ma’s sound arrives: ‘Come Save Me’, like ‘Let Her Go’ later, has a strain of ’60s pop that evokes images of Austin Powers flouncily chasing a go-go dancer down Carnaby Street.

Then it’s on to the danciest track on the album, ‘Four’, with its echoes of A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Voodoo Ray’. The album continues in this vein, teetering on that line between guitar pop and dance. It’s a tightrope across a canyon down which many a pie-eyed baggy daredevil has fallen. Jagwar Ma make it look effortless.

Dan Stubbs