I first encountered the name Juniper in November last year, at a Fred P gig. You know that frustrating moment when you approach the booth and stare at a rotating record for several minutes, your alcohol-fogged brain trying desperately to decode the rapidly spinning text? Yeah. The magical record was The Weekly Contract Events EP, a three-tracker released on Ominira, Kassem Mosse’s label. And incredibly, the track Fred P played, Juniper’s “Jovian Planet,” outshone the two others, from Mosse and Kowton. That’s no mean feat for a duo with only one 12″ to their name. With a similar number of tracks under his belt, Arnaldo is a name I’m unfamiliar with. But as the title of the record explains, they seem to have met via Manchester’s meandyou, where they both hold down residencies. But more importantly, they frequently support visiting DJs, such as Kassem Mosse, or members of the Smallville collective.
We Met in Manchester plays out pretty much as you’d expect for a record on Smallville. It’s elegant, detailed and restrained. In fact, in these terms, it may even outdo the label’s recent efforts. The bass line in Juniper’s “Selenic,” for instance, doesn’t act like a normal bass line. It’s not jammed between the beats, and nor does it work with the percussion to create groove. Instead, it pulses faintly from the very bowels of the track, imparting a wonderfully organic feel. This kind of graceful fluidity seems somewhat of a hallmark in Juniper’s work. The duo’s other cut, “Quiet Moon,” is a little more club-oriented, but it’s possessed with similarly enchanting synth work, burbling away like a gentle waterfall.
Taking a gritty, soulful tack, Arnaldo’s two tracks are no less impressive. With its wordless, indecipherable and expertly-chosen vocal sample, “A Song Name Of One Word” would be depressingly pensive, were it not for the crunchy, catchily swung beat that carries it. “Rain” is similarly downcast, convincingly evoking stormy days with just a pattering organ and splashing cymbals. Like Christopher Rau, it seems Arnaldo has the knack for rendering moodiness enjoyable rather than wearing. Combined with Juniper’s mellifluous two cuts, We Met in Manchester seems likely to propel both names well beyond the boundaries of the English city, and onto the wishlists of many an A&R manager.