Asphalt Jungle: Junglization
BHP Music

DJ Soul Slinger: Classics Part 1
BHP Music

“Is Jungle moribund?”—a question one might reasonably ask in 2006. The genre's percussive delirium sounded fresh when it exploded in the early ‘90s but the style has, in the eyes of detractors, ossified more than evolve. Naturally, Jungle acts Asphalt Jungle and DJ Soul Slinger would protest the idea vehemently but perhaps the wisest strategy is to treat their latest albums as a litmus test for gauging the genre's current condition.

Brazilian native DJ Soul Slinger's been pushing drum & bass since establishing NY-based Liquid Sky Music/Jungle Sky Records in the mid-‘90s and has collaborated over the years with Afrika Bambaataa, Elliot Sharp, Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, and others. The sixteen cuts on Classics, Part 1 are a mix of old and new with the earliest, 1994's acid-Africa excursion “Ethiopia” countered by the presence of five recent tracks. Despite the album's grab-bag character, it ultimately leaves a reasonably strong impression on account of stylistic breadth. Like the genre itself, Slinger's polyglot style pulls elements of hip-hop, dancehall, Latin, soul, electro, funk, new wave, and even zydeco into its drum & bass orbit. Consequently, we're treated to Christa Morell's soulful vocal turn in “Wild Chipitoulas (When Jungle Had A Soul)” (in a strangely subdued mix, however), a dancehall funk-drum & bass hybrid (“Zulu Transform”), plus a squawking B-52's “Rock Lobster” rehash (“God is a Lobster”).

Give Asphalt Jungle (Brian Tarquin aka Jungleboy and Chris Ingram aka Beatmaster) top marks for energy and enthusiasm, as its third full-length Junglization opens explosively and rarely lets up thereafter. Tarquin and Ingram distance themselves from the competition by mixing throbbing beats, heavy guitar riffs, agitated strings, and jazzy horns into a spacey live mix. As distinctive as that might sound, it's not so distinctive that it prevents a cliché or two from seeping into the album's thirteen tracks. Still, when an Indian chanteuse ululates over broiling breaks in “Karma Sutra,” for example, Asphalt Jungle attacks the material with such gusto one almost overlooks the cliché. Certainly the volcanic breaks of “Sensation” open Junglization promisingly and the update of Bob Marley's “Mr. Brown” roars convincingly. The group colours its tracks with novel touches like muted trumpet soloing (“Ripper”), flute-laden breaks (“Jungle Warfare”), even vocodered singing (“In My Blood”). Most memorably, a colossal beat drops with a crushing oomph halfway through “L Train” while Josh Harris's tenor sax and a singer wail overhead.

So is Jungle ‘dead'? Not if Carlos Slinger, Brian Tarquin, and Chris Ingram have anything to say about it. Still, an influx of revolutionary, or at the very least new, ideas wouldn't be unwelcome at this stage.

December 2006