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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Album review: Basement Jaxx – Junto

Twenty years after they burst onto the dance scene Basement Jaxx are still doing what they do best.
Felix Burton, left, and Simon Ratcliffe of Basement Jaxx. Phil Sharp
Felix Burton, left, and Simon Ratcliffe of Basement Jaxx. Phil Sharp

Basement Jaxx

Junto

(Atlantic Jaxx/PIAS)

Three stars

In its arena-filling form, dance music has undergone a scene-altering evolution in the past decade, chiefly thanks to the rise of the disingenuously titled EDM – that’s electronic dance music, as opposed, er, to all the other kinds.

Not that the long-standing London duo Basement Jaxx – Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe, who got together in 1994 – care for such paradigm changes. “Musically, I don’t think there’s much of it that will last,” was Buxton’s dismissive verdict on EDM in a recent interview.

And they return with an antidote of sorts in the form of what is – if you discount a 2011 movie score – their first album for five years.

Spanish for “together”, Junto isn’t a radical, zeitgeist-chasing departure from their often-Latino-flecked modus operandi, with (predominantly female) vocal samples ­aplenty.

The first full track, Power to the People, certainly feels like business as usual, breaking down into a pleasing choral bridge before letting a horn section loose on the dance floor.

Never Say Never, meanwhile, takes its pointers from a latter-day giant of chart dance, rolling out an uplifting, Calvin Harris-esque five-and-a-half minutes. It’s custom-made for the 4am post-club crew and the most obvious choice as one of the album’s five singles to date. While Burton and Ratcliffe’s more chilled-out extremes, such as Something About You, can wander perilously close to coffee-table territory, that’s far from a problem on Buffalo, which is the most startling moment here. It features Mykki Blanco, a left-of-centre New York MC who, if you aren’t already acquainted, requires a Google image search to fully comprehend (although possibly not at work, folks). Taking the gentleman’s-club strut of trap/crunk, with bass dropped like it’s going out of fashion, it’s led by Blanco’s blunt and bizarre rhymes, which are as attention-grabbing as the rapper’s wardrobe choices.

There’s a small helping of filler within the 13 tracks, while the carnival rhythms of Mermaid of Salinas have us experiencing flashbacks to the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life – something that nobody should have to endure in the year 2014. And there’s nothing as instantly catchy as past singles such as Oh My Gosh.

But, like dance-music cockroaches, Basement Jaxx continue to defy 20 years of trends, from big beat to dubstep, and plough on regardless. Junto has sufficient chops and ideas, indeed, to suggest that they just might still be rocking parties in 2034.

aworkman@thenational.ae