Junip @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 18.09.13

Junip receive a round of warm and polite applause as they take to an atmospherically lit Shepherds Bush stage, in what is their biggest London headline show to date. After an evening of melancholic support tunes from Mariam the Believer and Bill Ryder-Jones, the audience seems calm and slightly subdued – an appropriate mood perhaps for the hypnotic tones of the Swedish psych/folk band led by José Gonzalez.

Sep 18th, 2013 at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London / By Rob Matthews
Junip @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 18.09.13 Under the gaze of the Junip deer (an eerie backdrop), the band dive straight into their set, opening with the title track from their 2005 EP Black Refuge. The song swirls with all the dream-like ambience found on their records, however with the help of an extended band, Junip manage to incorporate huge depth and power in with José’s soft vocals, neatly strummed guitar and the haunting synth organ of Tobias Winterkorn. This is accompanied by stage lighting that is as much a part of the performance as the music - the band playing in near darkness, with bright spot lights creating silhouettes of the five members that horse shoe around the frontman. As the band work their way out of the first song and into tracks from their two studio albums Fields, and the recently released Junip, you begin to appreciate the subtleties in a sound that has been carefully constructed over the past 15 years. Fluttering lead lines and percussion dance around droning synths throughout the recent single ‘Walking Lightly’, whilst perfect vocal harmonies and airtight drums show that this band are full of confidence and enjoying a continued rise and success since the release of their first full length album.

The performance of the intensely catchy ‘Your Life, Your Call’ is an obvious favourite with the crowd, and though the atmosphere remains, the mood seems to lighten – gentle swaying has become head nodding and precise on-beat dancing - it’s easy to see this song thrusting Junip into the bright lights of the mainstream charts. José ends the song with his usual reserved “Thank you” as we once again plunge into darkness.

It hasn’t been plain sailing since the band’s formation in 1998. With only two EP releases prior to 2010, a lack of material had kept Junip from real progression. The success of José Gonzalez’s solo career would also put on hold the band’s hunt for musical perfection, despite the release of Black Refuge between José’s albums Veneer and In Our Nature. Fittingly then, Junip begin the evening’s encore with ‘Down the Line’, a track from In Our Nature, adding all the flourishes and power that come with the modern line up and cementing the image of an act that has finally perfected its voice.

The set ends with a surging crescendo during the closing stages of ‘After All is Said and Done’, synths, guitars, and drums rising simultaneously with the blinding house lights, eventually releasing us from the mystic world of Junip, and back to reality.