It’s been five years since the release of Dancehall, the debut album of French Electronic duo The Blaze. Since, they’ve remained predominately quiet, almost seeming to calculate the direction of their follow-up Jungle, which takes form as this antithesis to the livelier, more dance-driven work of Dancehall – creating a space to delve into differentiating emotionally resonant performances that formulate beyond tonal vibes. Whether vocally or through sound, the music carries some thematic depth beneath these atmospheric complexions reflective of Electro-Pop and French House of the 2000s and early 2010s, letting recent nostalgia elevate their craft as they build around it with exponential bliss. The visceral layering of the instruments keeps Jungle afloat through the rangy and mystifying vocals coated with mirroring leveled synths, amplifying the direct delivery of these tracks and letting you feel the impact of its words. The writing isn’t spread out and detailed like most narrative-driven music in pop and Hip-Hop – their identity rings differently. It holds everything together through the dainty trips; even when the writing is more simplistic, it remains potent in its delivery.
Like their first album, Dancehall, it doesn’t take long before the production puts you in a zone without shifting toward something more obtuse beyond a consistent breadth developing through the percussion and synths. You get this quick whiff instantly as Jungle opens to a track resembling something from an early 2010s Bon Iver or STRFCKR album; however, its production shifts the parallel further from it. The vocals are airy and coated behind this screen of atmospheric electronic textures, which creates a nuanced take on pop and French House, almost taking it as a guiding principle and establishing sounds that accentuate with cadence. Whether it’s on the opening track “Lullaby” or the subsequent “Dreamer” and “Lonely,” it separates itself from the production, becoming its own thing where the landscape shifts between being more percussion or synth focused. While it establishes its core direction, one can easily get lost in its vibe, but as you swim through the ten-track album, it’s like exploring new avenues of rich sounds.
Jungle opens strong and continues to build in the middle before ultimately petering at the end as the journey guides you. There is so much to take away, especially its use of synthesizers, which can shift in expression at any moment. Whereas “Madly” brings a louder, glitchier approach with synths flow in BPM with some erratic, consistent tendencies, “Haze” is atmospheric toward its construction as the synths shift between the overlay or underlay. The use of live instrumentations within the construct of its production helps these seamless switches between different sounds; whether it’s more Electro-Pop or more of a derivative of House/EDM, the ambiance is the potent component subtly shrouding the album. “Bloom” is one of many that imbues this sense remarkably, teetering into this captivatingly sonorous moment where the vocals become more of an add-on to balance the luscious electronic oeuvre notes that keep you in this great daze that is as effective.
Unfortunately, all good things aren’t meant to last, so as Jungle comes to a close, it starts to readjust poorly. “Dust” closes the album – it’s a five-and-a-half-minute doozie that encapsulates everything heard, triangulating the strengths, making them all blend, hearing especially through particular, sometimes subtle percussion notes. However, it becomes lost in some repetitive, timid synths, slightly diluting the effectiveness of “Eyes” as a lead-in. It’s as if “Haze” was turned on its head and became a repetitious sound with a singular focus, never playing around to create something more grandiose. It’s a disappointing downturn that makes you appreciate the work coming prior, relishing in these starry components and becoming a sort of skeleton to show us what got taken and explored, just not as dense. Having a weak closer doesn’t hinder it, as there is some semblance of a song, specifically with that slight uptick in the second half. It’s a slow start that gets slightly redeemed at the end. Additionally, it left me wishing they’d build on the songwriting more instead of treading within typical vocal structuring and styles. It’s close to blissful equilibrium, but the minimal imbalance pushes me to feel as entrenched as their debut, but the happiness of these remains intact.
Listening to Jungle was a thrill that builds as sounds expand visually and create unique twists from more apropos Electronic-Pop complexions. It’s a little simplistic, as it’s a more direct, streamlined album that hits many of its notes. I was left vibing and continuing to replay without hesitation. It may not be effective for some, as they don’t delve into more bombastic catchiness and keep it consistent with their identity. Give it a spin; you’ll definitely feel the rich emotional vibes they deliver and more.