If anything, Jungle knows how to market itself. In 2013, the London-based collective whose founding two members mysteriously referred to themselves as “J and T,” debuted with an expertly choreographed video for its single “Platoon.” In it, then 6-year-old breakdancer B-girl Terra spins and dances to the smoky, future R&B track. As the video proved successful, more singles followed, each with their own impeccably shot and choreographed visual, like the rollerblading duo dance routine of “The Heat” and large ensemble boogie of “Busy Earnin’.” With its anti-marketing posturing and fun viral videos, Jungle, which is actually helmed by Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, has created feverish buzz with just an EP to its name.
Jungle, the group’s debut album, fails to maintain the momentum generated by its singles. It’s 12 tracks of enjoyable, professionally rendered nu-disco complete with genre signifiers from both the ’70s and 2010s, like the funky bass line straight out of Parliament’s discography on “Time” and even chillwave flourishes on “Accelerate.” These touchstones, though capable homages, verge on one-dimensional pastiche. Throughout, the group takes those stylistic imitations further with the falsetto harmonies and rushed delivery of disco-era Bee Gees, but processing its vocals to the point of having a robotic sheen. When Jungle does soar, it’s on the strength of its midtempo opener, “The Heat,” with its silky hooks and mesmerizing bass thump. But only on “Platoon” and the bombastic “Julia” does the LP regain the same heights it kicked off with.
The record’s sole instrumental “Smoking Pixels” marks the midpoint of the album, and serves little purpose besides that. From there, its second half is more subdued and meandering with the repetitive synth-laden swirl of “Lucky I Got What I Want” and the rehashed funk of “Crumbler.” While there are a few missteps, Jungle is competently done, and its singles, with their undeniable grooves, are sure contenders for the U.K.’s “song of the summer.” Aside from a smattering of strong tracks, though, the album is too sleek and too wrapped in its own crate-digging influences to be more than an agreeable summer album.