Jagwar Ma’s music is best suited to loose feet and an even more fluid sense of consciousness. 2013 debut ‘Howlin’’ was a blueprint for berserk, atmospheric pop. Their live shows are even more disarming; songs that might sound structured become house-inflected juggernauts that could roll on for hours.
But instead of wandering off down Neverland with a giant, spiralling follow-up or getting lost in an endless acid trip, The Australian trio’s next move is surprisingly direct. Vocalist Gabriel Winterfield boldly avoids the trend of flooding his vocals in reverb. And despite lead single ‘Give Me a Reason’ stampeding past the seven-minute mark, these tracks rarely lurch past their expiry date.
The only real sacrifice is that as a result of this refinement, Jagwar Ma have lost ‘Howlin’’s sense of freedom. Gabriel’s vocals tend to be static and over-earnest (lines like “I’ve gotta have you baby” do little to stir the imagination), and Jono Ma’s dense electronic constructions often feel contained. When not going for the pop jugular, however, ‘Every Now & Then’ comes into its own. ‘Don’t Make It Right’ is a gorgeous, glistening piece, landing before an Ibiza-ready endpoint in ‘Colours of Paradise’. Panda Bear-style loops crop up on ‘Batter Up’, while ‘Slipping’ gives the trio’s 4AM alter-ego an anthem to hold dear.
Jagwar Ma thrive when they’ve more room to explore. It proves true on this record, which progresses from uncertain near-bangers to genuine eye-openers. ‘Slipping’’s mantra (“time is slipping away so fast”) suits them more than the album’s sludgy, slightly awkward opening. They still sound like they’re on a process of self-discovery, just a couple of steps away from striking gold.