Dujalu’s self-titled first album is a little like the mask drawings on the inside of the album cover: charming, colourful and a little childish. The multinational Wisconsin trio conjures the image of a bunch of precocious and talented high school kids who got together in someone’s basement, found some instruments to mess around with, and decided to form a jazz- and world-informed band. The result makes for some undeniably catchy moments—particularly on opening track “Panther,” which is almost enough fun to make up for the rest—but in the end, the album feels less like a finished product than a slapdash demo.
Jocelyn Farebrother’s vocals are accomplished but limited, rarely leaving a certain locus of intensity and emotion. As a result, each song eventually devolves into a haze of tuneful, monotonous wailing. Gabriel’s flaws are echoed by the band at large, which seems not to have worked out a coherent aesthetic. Almost all songs on the album feel somewhat patched together, and no amount of the musicians’ intuitive brilliance can prevent the asinine lyrics and meandering song structures from becoming monotonous. Eventually the album degenerates into a meandering jam session; by the fifth track, the listener is hard-pressed to identify one track from another.
This isn’t to say the band isn’t charming—it is, and its members’ ability to anticipate one another is neat to hear. Still, before starting in on a follow-up record, Dujalu might be wise to first get out of the basement and do some growing up.