Junip Rio Theatre, Vancouver BC, June 4
Published Jun 05, 2013Sweden's favourite gloomy electro-folk outfit Junip centers on the work of drummer Elias Araya, Tobias Winterkorn (who, notably, plays a Philips Philicorda organ and Moog Prodigy synthesizer) and singer-songwriter José González, but their current tour saw their numbers swell from a trio to a sextet. Yet, for how many people there were onstage, they didn't have as dynamic a sound as they could have. Rather, they mostly droned together in a logjam of analog sound, with everyone playing simple, repeating melodies under González's distinctive vocals. The crescendo of "After All Is Said and Done" and "Line of Fire," both from their eponymous sophomore album, hinted at a desire to create Sigur Rós-level wow moments that they fell just short of achieving.
Part of the problem was that there was little in the way of performance. Though they were reasonably tight, the whole band just stood there, somewhat awkwardly, and played. It was like watching six guys in a small room politely trying to avoid eye contact. González did say a few sweet and soft-spoken words to the crowd between songs, but he rarely moved a foot away from the mic when playing, his acoustic guitar ever strumming.
The sold-out crowd gathered at the Rio showed that González's voice is still a big draw, though. His voice sounds uncanny, its timeless timbre seemingly conjured from the ether of AM radio originally transmitted decades ago. Unfortunately, as the over-ornamented and underwritten arrangements blended into one track after another, so did his voice become less prominent; it was like he was trying to hide in the low-end fog created between their thunderous kick drum and analog synths. It would be something to hear González's voice with a minimal backing, an experience hinted at in the intro for "Without You," from their 2010 debut album, Fields.
The crowd seemed onboard, though. They gave Junip a standing ovation when calling them back for their encore, wherein the band capped the evening with the wistful vibes of "Suddenly" and "Walking Lightly." The guys all seemed humble judging from their appearance and González's banter; one roots for them to be more engaging than they are.