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.
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