Junun (album)

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Junun
Junun album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, and the Rajasthan Express
Released20 November 2015 (2015-11-20)
Recorded2015 in Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India
Length58:04
LabelNonesuch Records
ProducerJonny Greenwood[1]

Junun is a 2015 album by the Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, the English composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and the Indian ensemble the Rajasthan Express. It was produced by Greenwood and engineered and mixed by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.

The album recording, in Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India, is the subject of a documentary of the same name by Paul Thomas Anderson, released in October 2015. Following the release of Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool, the group toured as Radiohead's support act under the name Junun.[2]

Recording[edit]

Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, who had been living in India for over a decade, was contacted by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who admired his music. Planning a collaboration, they agreed on things they would not do; for example, Greenwood insisted they use no string instruments except those native to the region, and hire only musicians from Rajasthan.[3]

Ben Tzur, Greenwood and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich set up a recording studio in Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India. They were joined by a group they named the Rajasthan Express, incorporating musicians from three musical traditions: the Qawwali, Sufi musicians from Southeast Asia; Muslim Roma; and a brass section who had played in weddings and parades.[3] Ben Tzur wrote the songs, with Greenwood contributing guitar, bass, keyboards, ondes Martenot and programming. Greenwood produced the album and Godrich engineered.[3]

According to Pitchfork, Junun incorporates "Bollywood-style brass exuberance, the devotional Qawwali music of Sufi Islam, and bowed-string instruments associated with the Manganiar community".[4] Whereas western music is based on harmonies and chord progressions, Greenwood wanted to use chords sparingly, and instead write using North Indian ragas.[3] He said: "There's no major or minor in Indian music, which is very peculiar for someone who's used to playing with Radiohead and coming up with chord sequences ... As soon as you start imposing chords on this kind of music, you pin it down and force melodies onto it to have some sort of harmonic language that they don't really have, [Indian] music is more ambiguous than that."[3] He likened the music to the work of James Brown, describing it as "ecstatic".[3]

Greenwood and Godrich said they wanted to avoid the "obsession" with high fidelity in recording world music, and instead hoped to capture the "dirt" and "roughness" of music in India. Greenwood said: "When lots of Westerners go to India they make music with lots of respect, but sometimes it feels a bit like there's too much respect. People can be too wary, too wary to make anything that captures the real roughness of some of this music, especially the way the brass bands play when they're following processions and weddings down backstreets and the like."[3] To capture less polished recordings, some vocals were recorded with the singers using handheld microphones.[3] The lyrics are in Hebrew, Hindi, and Urdu.[4] Some singers sang phonetically in languages they did not know.[3] All the reverb is natural and was recorded using a large space beneath the fort.[3]

The recording is the subject of a documentary of the same name by Paul Thomas Anderson, released in October 2015.[5] Greenwood had previously composed soundtracks for several Anderson films.[6]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
The Guardian4/5 stars[3]
Pitchfork8.0/10[4]

Pitchfork wrote: "The ensemble's playing and [Ben Tzur's] compositions make Junun an easy stretch—though, crucially, not a condescending one—for listeners otherwise unfamiliar with the great variety of methods often obscured by 'world music' market-speak."[4] The Guardian wrote: "Greenwood contributes subtle embellishments – occasional electronic beats, as well as understated guitar and bass – rather than any scene-stealing showboating. Indeed, the real stars here are the Rajasthan Express's six-piece brass section."[7]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Junun" – 5:54
  2. "Roked" – 3:21
  3. "Hu" – 7:49
  4. "Chala Vahi Des" – 4:16
  5. "Kalandar" – 8:50
  6. "Eloah" – 3:55
  7. "Julus" – 3:44
  8. "Allah Elohim" – 4:21
  9. "Ahuvi" – 5:08
  10. "Azov" – 3:50
  11. "Junun Brass" – 3:29
  12. "There Are Birds in the Echo Chamber" – 0:32
  13. "Modeh" – 5:35

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nonesuch Records Junun". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  2. ^ "Jonny Greenwood's project 'Junun' confirmed as support act for Radiohead tour". faroutmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ehrlich, David (2018-07-10). "Paul Thomas Anderson and Jonny Greenwood on 'Junun' and the Possibility of Making a Radiohead Documentary". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  4. ^ a b c d "Shye Ben Tzur / Jonny Greenwood / The Rajasthan Express: Junun". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  5. ^ "'Junun': NYFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  6. ^ "NYFF Review: Paul Thomas Anderson is Trying Something Different With 'Junun'". Indiewire. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  7. ^ Mongredien, Phil (2015-11-22). "Shye Ben Tzur, Johnny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express: Junun review – joyous and hypnotic". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-01-25.