Monster Rally - Flowering Jungle - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Monster Rally - Flowering Jungle

by Jon Burke Rating:9 Release Date:2017-12-15
Monster Rally - Flowering Jungle
Monster Rally - Flowering Jungle

Henry Mancini’s “Lujon” is a renowned symphonic take on Latin jazz. The piece is evocative of tropical breezes, exotic locales and an all-consuming, pleasantly-tipsy, lushness which makes it a jukebox staple at Tiki bars the world over. The song is so deeply compelling it’s made its way onto numerous commercial, TV and film soundtracks, including The Big Lebowski and Sexy Beast. Though “Lujon” is definitely a North American composer nodding to the sounds of the Caribbean and South America, it never plagiarizes or parodies its influences. Instead it reverently incorporates subtle references, rhythms and instruments into an otherwise distinctly Mancini composition and the result is gold. That same gold can be found on the new Monster Rally album, Flowering Jungle—a cut-and-paste musical collage made up entirely of vintage vinyl exotica and tropicália samples.

Over the course of Flowering Jungle’s sixteen all-too-brief tracks, Ted Feighan, a.k.a. Monster Rally creates a compelling and wholly unique sonic landscape. There is no comparable listening experience to be found in 2017—at least not for this reviewer. The sensation of listening to Flowering Jungle is akin to being transported to another locale; the sounds are lush, tropical, and alive with color. Flowering Jungle may have been inspired by the sounds of older music and film but the result is an album which feels terribly fresh and deeply pleasurable. Imagine the Avalanches with a laser focus on making intricate, feel-good, tropical-inspired music that is just as engaging on headphones as it is playing in the background at a party. Flowering Jungle seems designed to be an experience and never comes across as showy or flashy in the “look what we just did” way that the Avalanches can.

Highlights from Flowering Jungle include “Toucans” where an airy string sample loops like breaking waves, over and over, until a rather fat beat bubbles to the surface and deepens the groove. Like most of the tracks on Flowering Jungle, “Toucans” clocks-in at just under two minutes, never overstaying its welcome and leaving listeners thirsty for more. On “Niñas De La selva,” Feighan deploys an almost bouzouki-esque guitar to add a Grecian spice to the track’s languid rhythmic shuffle. On a number of the album’s tracks, a fuzzy distorted crackling, reminiscent of old vinyl, washes over everything and lingers like a million popping bubbles of sea foam bursting out from the speakers. While most of Flowering Jungle is designed for toe tapping above outright dancing, “Giant Leaves” boasts a gorgeous piano loop and a hammering beat. The up-tempo track’s layers upon layers of drums, from woodblock to congas and toms, will surely lead to some booty shaking.

I wish there was more to complain about here but between Fieghan’s highly polished collage work, and the pure aural pleasure of the album’s upbeat tone, complaints would be nitpicky. My only real problem with the album relates directly to how easy it is on the ears. Flowering Jungle doesn’t offer a particularly challenging listen and the brevity of each track may be more about artistic caution than any attention span-related courtesy. Though no track ever wears out its welcome, by the same token, none of the songs offer listeners a single controversial or discordant sound. The brilliance of other sampling/collage masterpieces (Endtroducing, Raiding the 20th Century, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) was their willingness to experiment with longer songs, bizarre sounds and to challenge their audience with occasionally off-putting beat, song structures or tonal shifts—a nearly impossible feat for an album made from velvety samples of slack key guitar, twinkling piano and big, shiny beats.

I don’t know if I love Flowering Jungle because it feels like the opposite experience of life in Trumpland or if it really is as good as it feels. Either way, I’ll take it. For a little over half an hour yesterday I was able to escape my life, my job and my concerns about the future. I traveled to a far-off place teeming with pristine beaches, verdant jungle, and a perpetually open lounge where the best song I’d never heard before was on heavy rotation. Flowering Jungle is one of the few, and certainly the last, great pleasures of 2017.

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