Earlier this month Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton had some choice words for the current EDM scene, saying that whilst exciting, “It’s less soulful. Like an aerobics class. Musically, I don’t think there’s much of it that will last.” And he is a man who knows a little something about lasting.
It’s been 20 years since Basement Jaxx was born out of the regular club nights Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe put on in Brixton, and 15 since they released their first album. This week sees the release of their seventh, Junto. The album is a typically upbeat record, genre hopping in celebratory and exploratory fashion. Even after all this time their sense of discovery is as strong as ever, and their idiosyncrasy has lost none of its charm and charisma.
Junto does still very much sound like a ‘90s album at heart, and not one with a retrospective attitude. Maybe it’s the endless optimism and squeaky clean shimmer and shine production, maybe it’s the actual construction of some songs, or maybe it’s that Basement Jaxx and the Garage/Big Beat scenes are almost synonymous with the back end of that decade (despite the fact all but one of Jaxx’s albums were actually released in the 2000’s). Junto is more of what Basement Jaxx has always done, and has always done with relative proficiency. The way the industry has changed since Basement Jaxx’s formation means there is little chance of them having the type of all-encompassing breakthrough hit they are known for, but that doesn’t mean the songs are not still of that standard. It is a record that is devilish in its inception, impossible to dislike, but difficult to admire.
It could be argued that Basement Jaxx are in danger of becoming victims of their own success. So influential have they become that songs like single ‘Never Say Never’ could easily be a song by a prospective up-and-coming party starter dreaming of being the new Basement Jaxx. That’s not to say it is necessarily a bad thing, but it is rather jarring. Luckily the majority of the numbers on the album are intrepid and infectious enough that as a listener you are largely unaware of this.
‘Power To The People’ is an all-out attack of pure inclusive joy, retaining the tribal tone of the albums ‘Intro’. ‘Buffalo’ brings a big bold and brash beat to the mix and sets a heavier, less glossy tone for the second half of the album. The one misstep of the group comes in the shape of groove number ‘Summer Dem’, the one song devoid of a pulsating centric beat driving the song.
Junto is a more than apt title for Jaxx’s 7th album. Translated into English it means ‘Together’, and it is a collection of songs you want to listen to in a crowd of equally festive individuals, say at a festival. It will play perfectly at the likes of Bestival in early September, and when they embark on their tour in November. And that is their greatest success here.
The music of Basement Jaxx isn’t really suitable for reviewing, rendering this piece rather futile. It’s not to be dissected and analysed. It’s for dancing and sharing and smiling and tapping. And there’s never been many around as good at it as Basement Jaxx are. Whether this batch of songs last like their others, I doubt. But as Felix Buxton said about the current EDM scene, they’re exciting.
Junto is released on 25th August via Altantic Jaxx Recordings Ltd.