Over the years the town of Athens, Georgia has given the world a fair amount of college-rock and indie bands. Alternative stalwarts R.E.M. hail from its shores (yes I’m using that expression despite the fact Athens is thoroughly landlocked) and in some ways Juna could be their natural successors. Their new EP Heteroglossia draws on R.E.M.’s rattly, reverb tinged sound but adds to the mix a progressive element with impressive results.
The chilling first chords of album opener ‘Notes on a Penance’ course down the spine in anticipation of the heavier-handed guitar of the first verse. This fierce fret work bookends smoother bass-and-drum interludes and the whole aura of this piece lends it an air of Floyd-esque prog rock but with a slightly unhinged element. Throughout the EP, an ominous darkness prevails, elements like the chorus of ‘Solemnly Swear’ sound almost akin to Black Sabbath. These moments are always held down to Earth by the more laid-back air of tracks like ‘A Passage’; looser in composition but no less enthralling. The captivating nature of the songs is helped no doubt by the swapping tempos and sounds. Early Muse-ish static noise tricks are not uncommon, alongside tones which wouldn’t sound out of place on that Josh Homme-produced Arctic Monkeys album from a few years ago. All the while the drums give the listener a feeling of being perched quite precariously high up, on the verge of some massive drop. However, ‘A Passage’ sees the band sway into a different territory. This is more abrupt, reflecting the subject of the song, and seems to cross guitar sounds that would be at home on a Tame Impala b-side with further elements of Humbug.
This is a promising EP from a band relatively unknown on UK shores, but by combining influences from both sides of the pond in their sound, it results in the sort of music you’d expect to hear reverberating through a disused cathedral or the vault of some long-since-emptied bank which has been moved into by a group of indie squatters. The ‘strangled bass’ noises heard on some of the tracks are also a welcome weapon, generally underused in the indie arsenal.
4 out of 5 high fives!