CD - JUNO
Young Star (2020)
text: Robin Boer
photo: Markus Nymo Foss
JUNO is a quintet from Trondheim (NOR) consisting of Thea Ellingsen Grant (vocals), Malin Dahl Ødegård (vocals), Mona Krogstad (saxophone), Georgia Wartel Collins (double bass) and Ingvald Vassbø (drums). Last year we witnessed a very pleasant stage performance in the Amsterdam BIMHUIS during the 12 Points Festival, and we anticipated the release of the first studio album since. Now it's finally here and it's called 'Young Star'.
Here we hear a mix of eight finalized songs and four 'moody' intermissions combining the different tracks. Just like in the live performance, the music breathes freshly because the music has been arranged wisely and careful. That said, the playing is energetic and creative enough for a superb sonic experience, and it all sound well produced.
The songs 'Mike' and 'Need You to Know' were already released last year as singles and also featured on the album. All songs are very smartly composed and constructed, with a lot of polyrhythmics and shifting odd meter parts, combined with harmony vocals, raps and very silky lead singing by Thea Ellingsen Grant. What a voice! On 'Deflation Zone', for that matter, there is nothing not to like. The raps are an effort by Malin Dahl Ødegård, clearly frustrated with relationship issues, fake news and the vulnerability of our online privacy. But we also hear her softer, lyrical side when she is wonderfully delivering on 'Need You to Know', accompanied by the tasteful melodic saxophone lines of Mona Krogstad.
It is not clear who is playing some very colourful keyboard parts on some of the tracks, but it gives very nice extra flavour to the music. Without the elaborate bass parts of Georgia Wartel Collins (presenting a great monologue on double bass on 'Mood 1') and Ingvald Vassbø's playful, complex and tight drumming, these songs would stand less a chance rhythmically. Fortunately, both prove to create both an accurate, skilled and playful rhythm section.
'Mood 4' gives us some great Henry Cow vibes, leading directly to the final track 'Baby I'm Shocked', with a standout end section where we hear haunting synths, high pitched harmony vocals and a beautiful saxophone solo. The album has a sort of coda, led by the angelic voice of Ellingsen Grant and punchy double bass by Wartel Collins, perhaps intended as the unmentioned 'title track'.
We do think JUNO can be highly satisfied with such a strong and addictive debut album. After thirty-seven minutes it leaves you beg for more. Treat yourself and check them out!