“Folktronica” sounds like the worst idea on paper and yet is one of the best in reality.
It is a bending of the infinite entrainment engine of electronic music toward the more sylvan, contemplative end of things, like trip-hop without being so self-consciously noir. Gothenburg, Sweden’s José González (born in Argentina, if you were curious) is one of the best people at it. His group Junip has its origins in the late 1990s in a Gothenburg practice space, where González put his guitar in a low, convivial orbit with Tobias Winterkorn’s synthesizer and Elias Araya’s drums, evoking something that falls between ambient rave music and the rain patter of Nick Drake.
The band went to the back burner as González and his Alhambra classical guitar became the hottest thing in the UK in the mid 2000s. His spare, spellbinding 2005 album Veneer went platinum there, and sold 700,000 copies worldwide. He released the less insular, more folk-inspired In Our Nature in 2007, and the density of that recording—one that lands in a midpoint between Iron & Wine and Caribou—led him back to his original band.
The resulting album, Fields, feels like a matured distillation of personalities, with Gonzalez’s gentle rattle and breeze-blown lyrical lines cascade over Winterkorn’s gracefully aggressive synth lines and Araya’s syncopation like a cormorant over a choppy surf. It gains a pulse that is less four-on-the-floor techno but a shared biorhythm, the rush of a teenage dream reaching fruition.
Junip performs with the Acrylics, plus a special post-show VIP DJ Set by José González, May 12 at Republic. Tickets $13 (VIP $18)