CD, Enraptured Records / Cargo Records, 2008
Brothers Mik and Rich Hanscomb, core members of British band Junkboy, have built a name with their timeless brand of melodic folk and meandering, ultra-mellow rock. This, their third release (aptly titled “Three”), arouses a subconscious and insular world, melding richly lyrical guitars with floating, velvety electronics. Emphasizing the instrumental, the dreamlike quality of “Three” occurs in a lo-fi netherworld of easygoing jazz and unpretentious symphonic adornments, at times accented by tranquil vocals. Reminiscent of AIR, but with less import given over to purely electronic features, Junkboy pulls together a curious dynamic of restrained synthesizer sounds, tuneful piano and saxophone, and lightly plucked guitars that carries a soft and flowing ambience ideal for a sleepy afternoon in the city or, if one prefers, an early morning in the middle of nowhere.
“Three” is armchair music, surely, but with a healthy enough injection of psychedelic rock as to lend itself contrasting interpretations, falling somewhere between sparse romanticism (“Held Inside”) and cosmic baroque (“Waiting For”). There doesn’t seem to be an actual beginning or end to this collection of tracks, whether taken as a whole or individually. The album speaks in a manner without any sense of finality or succession, however disconnected from the fast-paced sensory overkill of the modern idiom it happens to be. Start playing it anywhere and let it loop through, even on random – you’ll see what I mean. Junkboy’s parlance lies instead in morphine nuances, skillful harmonies and eyes-wide wonderment, simultaneously a return to simpler times and a progression toward contemporary enlightenment. The extensive first track (“Volcano Mono”) sets a great example.
Perhaps an unintended consequence of the drifting, unsophisticated aura surrounding this album is its all-too-easy relegation to the category of background music, appropriate only for elevators and planetariums alike. Listeners might, quite frankly, become bored, their minds wandering to other things. Also, the strong pop elements that occasionally emerge (“Seconds”) aren’t exactly stellar. “Three” might well be called vapid or monotonous by impatient critics looking for something less hermitic and more conspicuous than these idle, syrup-dipped compositions, and even this reviewer sees in it possibilities of resolve-deflating ennui and aimless, folky self-indulgence (“Tonight”). However, it is precisely these jejune traits that lend Junkboy its special, engrossing character. When the mood is right, “Three” fits just fine.
— Dutton Hauhart