Gods & Monsters, the seventh release from Juno Reactor, sees Ben Watkins stretching a bit, but not straying too far from the Reactor formula of mixing techno and world music influences.
While it’s great to see techno getting bent and adapted, not all off Juno Reactor’s attempts to push its range are successful.
The first track on Gods & Monsters, Inca Steppa, starts out promising, with a driving synth bassline. It quickly turns into a vocal number, though, marred by weak lyrics. The music is all over the place, too, with spy/surf guitar, theremin-style synth warbles and a bit of a reggae feel. I don’t know where this track was going, but it doesn’t seem to have arrived in one piece.
The second track, Tokyo Dub, is a slow number that sounds less dub than soul. Despite great sounds and production and a fantastic singer, the track feels too long after 30 seconds, with lame lyrics again the culprit. The track might have been interesting if Reactor had actually done some bizarro dub tricks and effects, but instead the track just goes on and on.
While the first two tracks aren’t particularly promising, somewhere in the third track, Las Vegas Future Past, Reactor seems to find their groove.
The track starts out quietly, with a sort of jazzy techno feel. A horn section plays a swinging melody before the track transitions into some more respectable techno territory. Finally, the track crescendos to a sort of bebop trumpet jam at the end.
Mind of the Free continues the jazz-influenced excursion. The awesome pianist Mike Garson improvises over a backgroup of muted synth pads and percussion. The second half of the track features female modern jazz vocals & male spoken word. The result is more a jazz improv feel than techno.
The track Immaculate Conception is where the CD first really takes off. The track combines a live band feel with strings and sequenced techno synths. The result is not to far off from the sound of some of Juno
Reactor’s Matrix work. The track builds nicely to a climax, filled with crashing percussion and distorted guitars.
Another track that should jump out for Juno Reactor fans is Tanta Pena. It again combines sequenced synths with strings, vocals and live band elements to create a massive sound.
The final two tracks feature Ben Watkins’ vocals, and stray pretty afar from what you might expect. The Perfect Crime has an almost Dead Can Dance vibe to it, while Pretty Girl has an country hymn feel. Watkins’ vocals are great, and lyrically, these two tracks are as good as anything on the album.
However, both tracks, especially Pretty Girl, don’t sound like Juno Reactor tracks. If you like to hear artists do something different, you’ll probably like these two tracks. If you’d rather just hear Juno Reactor plays some friggin techno, you’ll probably be skipping these tracks.
Overall, Gods & Monsters continues the progressive world techno sound Juno Reaktor helped create, while also stretching into some new territory. Juno Reaktor won’t please everybody with this release, but it’s great to hear artists reach for something new.
- Artwork Design – Squalis
- Artwork Illustration – Koji Morimoto
- Bass – Dr. Das
- Drum Programming – Ramjac
- Drum Programming, Guitar, Keyboards, Engineer – Ben Watkins
- Additional Drums – Django
- Drums, Percussion – Greg Ellis , Mabi Thobejane
- Engineer – Adz, Chris Lewis
- Guitar – Sugizo
- Keyboards – Scarlet
- Sonar – Rudy Koppl
- Sound Forager – Xavier Morel
- Piano – Mike Garson
- Trumpet in Las Vegas Future Past – Byron Wallen
- Guitar in City Of The Sinful – Steve Stevens
- Darduk Flute, ney and zorn in Tanta Pena – Tigran Aleksanyan
- Acoustic guitar in Perfect Crime – Eduardo Niebla
- Vocals in Perfect Crime and Pretty Girl – Ben Watkins
- Vocals in Inca Steppa, Tokyo Dub, Mind Of The Free and City Of The Sinful – Ghetto Priest
- Female vocals in Inca Steppa, Perfect Crime and Pretty Girl – Taz
- Vocals in City Of The Sinful – Angelica
- Vocals in Tanta Pena – Yasmin Levy
- Written-By, Producer – Juno Reactor
- Inca Steppa (7:45)
- Tokyo Dub (7:08)
- Las Vegas Future Past (5:59)
- Mind Of The Free (6:13)
- Immaculate Cruxifiction (7:38)
- City Of The Sinful (4:43)
- Tanta Pena (5:51)
- Perfect Crime (6:24)
- Pretty Girl (5:28)