Subtlety isn’t an adjective often used to describe pop music yet it is at the heart of Junip’s debut album Fields. Guitarist/singer Jose Gonzales, drummer Elias Araya, and keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn create music by picking through the bones of their improvisations, spinning out sparse, mesmerizing songs. The melodies and lyrics are formed from the cooling elements of the trio’s experiments with rhythms, chord progressions and moods. Junip isn’t set on creating the next great hook; they’re content to plumb the depth of a singular musical concept, turning it over like a musical prism, revealing its refracting shades.
Gonzales, Araya, and Winterkorn began performing as a trio more than a decade ago, but due to Gonzales’ solo success, their collaboration lay dormant. Junip isn’t a band in a hurry in any aspect. Fields, their long awaited full-length release, benefits from the growth each member has gained over the years. The eleven tracks on the album are not dissimilar to Gonzales solo music; the songs are intense examinations of internal conflicts and emotional quandaries. Gonzales rarely raises his voice above a whisper. His vocals curl up like wisps of smoke, hinting at the fire that smolders, undetected, for the moment. When the conflagration finally comes it is the result of slowly building keyboards and synthesizers. Winterkorn is a master of layered production, but he is a patient player who delicately transitions from one level of tension to the next. Gonzales nylon-stringed guitar and Araya’s steady drumming create a propulsive rhythm that pushes the music to its eventual eruption. “Rope & Summit” and “Without You” are examples of this slow burn to flashpoint.
Junip is remarkable good at allowing for empty space within its’ songs, leaving room for reverberation. Their lyrics are minimalist, employing language that is precise, considered, and limited. Gonzales restrained phrasing forces your attention to the words. It is next to impossible to pin Junip’s music down to any one genre. There are elements of jazz, folk, tribal and trance throughout the album. Junip’s proves that with limited musical maneuvering a trio can make music that can encompass a world of ideas.