Junun is a collaborative album between Israeli composer and singer Shye Ben Tzur, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express, the largest division in this trio of contributors that consists of 19 musicians; all experienced in traditional Indian music. With all selections written by Shye Ben Tzur and production from Radiohead’s Nigel Godrich, Junun, and its 13 songs, is also a soundtrack to a film of the same name directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that documents the album’s creation.
Junun begins with the title track and then moves to the album’s single, “Roked,” which should work for most Radiohead fans with similar hyper-percussive production yet an unconvential backdrop with Ben Tzur and 19 of his closest friends, all of which meet the limelight on the album’s front or back cover. Tracks like “Chala Vahi Des” are jubilant and traditional where others tracks like “Kalandar” have a twisted mystique.The experimental bones of the song come more from Greenwood and Godrich at the beginning but with more Rajasthan instrumentation later grabbing hold of the almost nine minute track. Both of Junun‘s lengthier songs, “Hu” and “Kalandar,” offer space for many voices and instrumentalists to settle in and contribute to the collage.
Certain tracks can be serene and calculated by Ben Tzur where “Julus” or “Junun Brass” let loose with the full band. Rajasthan Express plays and sings with fervor on “Allah Elohim,” a track that encapsulates the album’s beauty; especially within the context of film. Tracks like “Ahuvi” and “Azov” may not be as listenable or palatable for Radiohead fans, or listeners in general, but production on “Junun” and “Roked” is enough to lure them in.
Out on Nonesuch Records, Junun inherently exists in the shadow of Greenwood and Godrich’s influence, but the mastermind behind the project, Ben Tzur, and Rajasthan Express really deserve credit for the direction Junun accomplished. Flourishes of contemporary rock or electronic familiarity throughout Junun are only flashes in a pan of rich cultural composition and heritage.
Recommended If You Like: Radiohead, Atoms For Peace, Philip Selway