Jose González is, despite his name, actually Swedish, hailing from a suburb of Gothenburg. He could have easily fit into the indie-Swedish folksters that have been so popular as of late (think Loney, Dear – QRO spotlight on), but he also could have been one of the Latin American troubadours that have also been big recently (think Alejandro Escovedo). But in his side-project Junip, ‘Chilly’ González dovetails both sounds and more for a singular, magical, natural style on Fields, his first Junip release in five years.
Fields/Junip is hard to describe, but ‘singular’, ‘magical’, and ‘natural’ come closest, though in their own distinct ways. (‘progressive’ could also be used, if the term weren’t tinged with the seventies ‘prog-rock’ association). Fields is ‘singular’ in that it sounds similar to very little else, but there are still many familiar elements – they’re just blended so well, so softly, that they’re hard to separate from the whole. The ‘magical’ way isn’t Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but more ‘magical realism’ in the South American/southern European style (think Jorge Luis Borges – González’s family emigrated to Sweden from Borges’ Argentina just before González was born – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Jose Saramago…); not ‘whiz-bang, abracadabra’, but slow and smooth, enthralling to the point where you don’t realize that your feet have left the ground. And ‘nature’ comes through in a more Scandinavian way, of wide open Fields & oceans, tranquil and touching, but also still with the air of loss.
The individual tracks on Fields admittedly don’t differ that greatly from each other, never quite exceeding opener “In Every Direction”, but that might just be because that’s the first Junip piece one hears. There are darker, more bass-driven moments, often with a processional rhythm behind them, and higher, more lilting times (especially in González’s voice). The keys on the record are sometimes ill fitting – not overly-artificial in their own right, but on such a ‘natural’/‘magical’ record, it can feel like Vangelis joined in. Despite the folk ways and Spanish name, Fields is not alt-country (save maybe the road-trot rhythm behind “Off Point”) – the Hispanic element is not the north-of-the-Equator, Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Indian-infused element that American ears are used to, but the South American, south-of-the-Equator Mediterranean-infused style. But whatever the name/influences, Jose González’s Junip have crafted something singular, magical, and natural.
MP3 Stream: “In Every Direction”