Jungle (2023) by The Blaze
A spectacle-first album.
Festival dance music is its own animal. Whereas underground house music attaches to the internal scenery of the listener, festival dance music sets up external imagery that the listener enters in order to enjoy properly. This is why underground dance can be enjoyed at the smallest dance club, whereas a festival artist will need the venue—inside or outside—to be a canvas for a visual spectacle that maintains context for the music. Underground music requires direct inner-energy, while festival music produces outer-energy to evoke that inner-energy.
This theorizing is all very abstract, anecdotal and unscientific, but hopefully it can be understood for a duo like The Blaze, whose music is contextualized by live performances and music videos. Years ago I was obsessed by the tracks Territory and Virile—almost solely because of their emotionally-moving music videos. Audio-only listens to these tracks remind me that I can’t separate the videos from the music anymore—they are one and the same.
This can be a problem for me, as it sets up concrete expectations of how the music should be enjoyed: There becomes a keyhole to the mood and ambience of a track that one must peer through to see clearly. I can’t put festival music on in the background—these tracks do not augment their surroundings but take it over (this is well opposed to my arguments for “Transitional Tracks”). This type of music thus becomes not a canvas for my life, but a lens for living someone else’s.
Who knew that personal agency could ever be involved with dance music?
Thoughts on JUNGLE
There is a fine line between festival dance and pop dance, and The Blaze seems to be transitioning towards the latter. Using my own definitions of the genres, Pop Dance is vocal-heavy, to the point that it is the focus of the track, with instrumentation just a means of providing climax. “LONELY” is a prime example of this move, where the duo’s typical vocal effects are stripped away and backed by percussion reminiscient of The Killers’ Rock/Dance/Pop hybridism.
There are instrument-heavy tracks like “SIREN” that balance out the album, but they are a different kind of transitional track—they are the bridge between the pop tracks. Unfortunately, the album’s attempt at recreating this festival track sequence feels thin and forced compared to their previous album DANCEHALL, which was a comfortable collection of festival dance tracks. DANCEHALL contained few transitional tracks that are made like a waiting room for something better.
To structure an album after an hour-long festival experience is to give up great singular dance tracks for one alright dance experience. The highs of JUNGLE are much lower compared to EP Territory and DANCEHALL (which was already starting to decline on its own track-based merits). The album’s best tracks were already released as singles earlier on: EYES are a continuation of the duo’s earlier productions and can remind fans why they came here in the first place; DREAMER evokes the multi-storied epics that are depicted in The Blaze’s music videos.
But tracks like BLOOM and HAZE are unspecifically catchy, and show The Blaze at its laziest. They reveal a group that is so enamored by their light shows that they think the music is to decorate the visuals rather than the other way around. Thus, JUNGLE is more of an advertisement for upcoming live performances rather than a display of dance music mastery.