Juno Reactor's popularity
has been steadily increasing since their 1993 debut, and the quality
of their music seems to follow the same upwards linear
curve. This is especially commendable
in the Goa
scene, where mediocrity
is as common as the tribal
samples so tediously overused on every album.
Past the energetic hit "High Energy Protons", their debut Transmissions seems to me nothing more than an above-average, technically-accomplished imitation of the Orb's early ambient dub, with some throwaway acidic noodling thrown in for good measure. The album was moderately impressive enough to earn an opening slot for an Orb tour, and the Orb published Juno's one-hour long track "Luciana" the next year.
It wasn't until 1996's Beyond the Infinite that Juno Reactor found their niche, ethnically charged trance. The album was unfocused and inconsistent, but opened up a ton of avenues for the band to follow. Like Transmissions, Beyond yieled a successful single, in the form of "Samurai". 1997's Bible of Dreams was the payoff, an almost genre-defining journey through the world of trance that sounds as good on headphones as it sounds on the dancefloor. The album's consistency and overall quality of the tracks far exceeds their previous works, and the samples feel a lot less exploitative of third-world cultures. They are actually used to enhance the musical flow of the tracks, rather than just liberally sprayed about to lend some kind of pseudo-spiritual meaning to what is essentially dance music. Imagine that!
Shango is Juno Reactor's latest LP, and the one which inspired me to create this writeup. It's Juno Reactor's best yet, mixing more genres and cultures (some even unidentifiable) than you can shake a stick at. There's even a successful attempt at mixing trance with a Spaghetti Western feel in the single "Pistolero". The album loses energy toward the end, but in the good chill-out way rather than the bad out-of-ideas-let's-throw-in-some-ambient-noise way. It's all very accomplished stuff, and I'm sure that it will inspire legions of half-baked imitators to fill up compliations with names like Goa Dreams 9: Heavenly Journeys so Johnny Raver can get his roll on and pretend he's having a spiritual experience.
As for Juno Reactor, I think they've finally earned enough credibility to make up for that whole Traci Lords thing. Maybe.