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Basement Jaxx “Junto” – Album Review

Atlantic Jaxx (2014)

Named after the Spanish word for together, it’s little surprise to hear that Junto, the seventh album from Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, aka Basement Jaxx, possesses the same sense of communal spirit that has defined their genre-straddling career.

Their extra-curricular activities aside (the Attack The Block soundtrack, their collaboration with the Metropole Orchestra), it’s been five years since we heard from the enduring duo. And the follow-up to 2009’s Zephyr pretty much picks up where they left off with an abundance of carnival-friendly beats, wailing divas and quirky synths likely to sound just as much at home on the beaches of Rio as on the streets of their native London.

Junto therefore isn’t exactly Basement Jaxx at their most boundary-pushing. Indeed, several of its 13 tracks bear more than a passing resemblance to some of their former glories, whether it’s the bouncy Latin electro of “Mermaid Of Salinas” (a dead ringer for “Bingo Bango”), the organised chaos of “Sneakin’ Toronto” (essentially an instrumental version of “Plug It In”) or the sassy vocal house of “What’s The News?” (essentially “Oh My Gosh” part II).

Buxton and Ratcliffe also aren’t averse to lifting huge chunks from elsewhere. “Never Say Never” appears to borrow the melody from Womack & Womack’s 80s classic “Teardrops,” “Rock This Road” channels the Afrobeat of Mory Kante’s chant-led classic “Yeke Yeke,” while “Summer Dem” jumps on the disco-funk bandwagon with a supremely slinky production, albeit one with a bizarre Scottish-accented middle-eight which sounds like Studio 54 has been transported to the streets of central Glasgow.

There are a couple of moments which suggest that the pair have occasionally had their finger on the pulse during their lengthy absence. With its acoustic loops, twinkling wind chimes and featherlight female vocals, “Something About You” neatly fits with in the current trend for all things alt-R&B. “Buffalo,” meanwhile, cleverly bridges the gap from their more abrasive pirate radio roots to the twitchy synth sound of the trap scene.

But for the most part, Junto indicates that Basement Jaxx are perfectly content with their status as the elder statesmen of British house-pop. Their previously adventurous sound may now feel slightly formulaic, but few acts can get the party started in such harmonious style.

3 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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