Based in Berlin, Juno Francis are an enigmatic electronic dark pop duo – Jacob Fagerstål and Angelica Ranåsen – that describe themselves as “the love child of a 60s gentleman and an 80s lady”. That’s literally all I know about them as I write this, and it feels pretty much on the mark. Mixing elements of 60s psychedelia with 80s pop production and a hefty dose of krautrock for good measure, Oyster Love is a brooding, hypnotic treat that embeds itself in your brain.
Described by the band almost as a play in four acts, each track seems to represent the continuation of a story that begins in the forest and somehow ends up in the hectic city centre. How much of that journey is in the mind of the protagonist one can’t be sure, but to me it feels very much like an internal dialogue – and the struggle to find meaning in a world that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Maybe that’s just me, though.
What I do know is that the opening track, Follow the Stars, begins with birdsong before an almost baroque chord progression begins on synth and leads into a chorus that begins “Golden days are yet to come for us, my love / You haven’t seen what life can bring for those who dream“. To be fair, the lyrics are consistently great across the board, but I especially like lines like “I am the chaos in the order around me“. Ranåsen’s voice is a wonderful thing too, complimenting the analogue warmth swirling around her. What does it all mean? I’m not sure, but it’s absolutely captivating.
Built on a driving motorik beat, whooshing synths and sweeping filters, the title track follows. Much like the opener, again the choice of textures and instrumentation is really strong and, just, bloody cool. Lyrics such as “Roll the dice and watch the darkness rise in me” and “When it all comes down to the essence / I will trade my future for the present” seem awash with desire. Again, it’s intoxicating stuff. The band describe this track as “the darker side of a romantic world view and the sacrifices made to chase self-fulfilment” and it’s difficult to argue with that.
The final two tracks on the EP are the slower, brooding hi-hat groove of Fight and the krautrock-meets-80s-pop of I Wanna Run Away. Both of which – like the first two tracks – kind of feel like drowning in dark chocolate. In Fight, the lyrics tell of a “hazy memory of an endless push and pull game. The love story we all remember as the one that changed us forever”. Again, there are several lines that jump right out at you, such as “security breach on integrity”, that feel almost like a surrealist poem. This carries over into the closer, which is the fastest and perhaps the closest thing to mainstream pop of the four tracks here. As with what has come before, the production is pitch-perfect – with Ranåsen’s voice impressive and a range of sympathetically selected synth textures.
Overall, Oyster Love is an intriguing, enjoyable listen. In Juno Francis, Fagerstål and Ranåsen have created something that is distinctive and that certainly stands out from a lot of their contemporaries. As it says on their Spotify bio, their music is “psychedelic and glamorous, haze and glitter, hypnotic and dramatic”. It’s a strange and mysterious brew for sure, but it’s got a lot going for it.