The Goa Way
London’s Ben Watkins is the man at the center of the Juno Reactor universe, having single-handedly kept electronica’s Goa trance subgenre in the public consciousness. Problem is, the JR catalog pulls from a surprisingly shallow well of punishing industrial/techno beats and Eastern-influenced wails. The Golden Sun of the Great East doesn’t feel or sound like music that’s been around for 20 years, but the formula has been for sure.
In the early to mid ’90s, when Watkins had the ear of the likes of Traci Lords and The Orb, the aggressive trance of Transmissions was something of a revelation. But as the years rolled by, Juno Reactor’s scoring work for The Matrix and later albums like Gods & Monsters grew irritating in their sameness.
There’s slight evidence of an entertaining toning-down on Golden Sun. Closing track “Playing with Fire” feels like the softest thing Juno Reactor has done in years. “Guillotine” is bracing in the same manner as the soundtrack of a racing/shooting video game. “Trans Siberian” slows the rhythm down just enough to resemble solid EBM in the Covenant/Assemblage 23 vein.
Most of Golden Sun, however, finds Juno Reactor still splitting the difference between the meditative and the militaristic. Indian and Arabic melodies dart in and out of high-BPM song after high-BPM song, from standard rave-ups like “Invisible” to the WTF factor of “Zombie.” If Goa trance is your thing, then be our guest—but there’s a time and place to be stuck in the 1990s, and Juno Reactor really should be moving along now.