Basement Jaxx
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Remedy , 6/10
Rooty , 5/10
Kish Kash (2003), 5/10
Crazy Itch Radio (2006), 5/10
Scars (2009), 5.5

Following in the footsteps of the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx (Brixton's disc jockeys Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe) played exuberant, catchy, frantic post-techno music with reggae and latin overtones in the underground hits that they released during the 1990s: Be Free (Atlantic Jaxx, 1995), Samba Magic (1996), Fly Life (1996), Get Down Get Horny (1996), Belo Horizonti (credited to The Heartists), Urban Haze (1997), Wish Tonite (1997). Unlike most techno musicians, they composed songs, songs that stand on their own. The early recordings will surface on Atlantic Jaxx (Beggars, 2001).

Basement Jaxx's first album, Remedy (Astralwerks, 1999), built on the creativity of the previous EPs. They mix latin music (Bingo Bingo) and hip-hop (Jump N'Shout). They indulge in the robotic ballet of Yo Yo, and sculpt the surreal and pounding Same Old Show. They triumph with the soul-poppy Red Alert and the exuberant flamenco-ish Rendez-Vu. At best, their style is derivative of "garage house", the style born in the late 1980s our of New York gay clubs that basically set sexy rhythm'n'blues crooning to a techno beat. At worst, their tracks are trivial dancefloor cliches.

With Rooty (Astralwerks, 2001), instead, Buxton and Ratcliffe composed a tribute album to rhythm'n'blues, from Romeo (virtually a sendup of the Tamla style) to Get Me Off (that harks even further back in time to the girl-groups of the 1950s) to Do Your Thing (a charming throwback to the jump-blues bands of the 1950s), with nods to tex-mex (Broken Dreams), Caribbean music (I Want You), funk (Jus 1 Kiss), etc. The artistic value is very low, though, throughout the proceedings. They mostly provide generic dancefloor exuberance, such as the hit Where's Your Head At.

A much more somber work, Kish Kash (Astralwerks, 2003) finds Ratcliffe and Buxton in a bluesier state of mind (the string-laden Good Luck, vaguely reminiscent of Gloria Jones's Tainted Love, Living Room, Feels Like Home, If I Ever Recover), that does not sacrifice the arrangement gimmicks and the avantgarde raps, but rarely (Supersonic) addresses the dancefloor. The single Lucky Star (featuring rapper Dizzee Rascal), the nod to electro-clash of Cish Cash ( Siouxsie Sioux on vocals), the Prince-like funk-soul Right Here's the Spot (featuring Me'shell Ndegeocello) and Plug It In ('N Sync's JC Chasez on vocals) mainly rely on imitation and the appeal of household names.

The dance-pop opera Crazy Itch Radio (XL, 2006) is not necessarily misguided in its intent to weave a sequence of songs around a narrative pretext but simply fails to produce cute novelties like they used to. Hush Boy, Take Me Back to Your House and Hey You are witty and poppy, but sound restrained and fluffy.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Nicolas Bucci)

Seguendo i passi di Chemical Brothers e Daft Punk, i Basement Jaxx (duo composto dai DJs di Brixton Felix Burton e Simon Ratcliffe), suonano un’esuberante, orecchiabile e frenetica post-techno con sfumature reggae e ispirazioni latino americane. Durante gli anni ’90 hanno prodotto numerose hits underground: Be Free (Atlantic Jaxx, 1995), Samba Magic (1996), Fly Life (1996), Get Down Get Horny (1996), Belo Horizonti (prodotta sotto lo pseudonimo The Heartists), Urban Haze (1997), Wish Tonite (1997). Al contrario della maggior parte dei produttori techno, i Basement Jaxx compongono canzoni vere e proprie. Le prime registrazioni hanno poi aperto le strade alla loro label Atlantic Jaxx (2001).

Il loro primo album, Remedy (Astralwerks, 1999), raccoglie la creatività dei loro precedenti EP. Un mix di musica latina (Bingo Bingo) e hip-hop (Jump N’Shout). I due DJs di Brixton si abbandonano al robotico balletto di Yo Yo e scolpiscono la surreale e martellante Same Old Show. Trionfano con il soul-poppy di Red Alert e con l’esuberante flamenco di Rendez-Vu. Nelle migliori composizioni, il loro stile risente dell’influenza "garage house", movimento nato nei tardi anni ’80 nei gay clubs newyorchesi che fondeva sensuali linee vocali rhythm’n’blues con battiti techno. Ma in casi peggiori, i loro pezzi sono banali stereotipi da dancefloor.

Con Roothy (Astralwerks, 2001), invece, Buxton and Ratcliffe compongono un album che è un vero e proprio tributo al rhythm’n’blues. Romeo è una parodia virtuale di Tamla, Get Me Off richiama i girl-groups anni ’50 mentre Do Your Thing pare un incantevole ritorno alle jump-blues band dei ’50. Non mancano riferimenti a generi come tex-mex (Broken Dreams), musica caraibica (I Want You) e funk (Jus I Kiss). Considerando le opere nella loro interezza, comunque, la valenza artistica del duo non è molto alta. Si concentrano troppo sull’esuberanza tipica del dancefloor, come nella hit Where’s Your Head At.

Un lavoro meno brillante, Kish Kash (Astralwerks, 2003) trova Ratcliffe e Buxton sempre più vicini ad un blues (gli archi imprigionati di Good Luck ricordano vagamente Gloria Jones in Tainted Love, Lving Room, Feels Like Home e If I Ever Recover) che si avvicina lentamente a nuove sonorità (come il rap d’avanguardia) e che tenta di allontanarsi dal dancefloor. Il singolo Lucky Star (con la partecipazione del rapper Dizzee Rascal), i richiami electro-clash di Cish Cash (con Siouxsie Sioux alla voce), il funk-soul princiano di Right Here’s the Spot (con Me’shell Ndegeocello) e Plug It In (con JC Chasez degli ‘N Sync) fanno troppo affidamento sulla celebrità dei vari featuring.

L’opera dance-pop Crazy Itch Radio (XL, 2006) fallisce nel tentativo di proseguire quell’originalità che aveva in parte contraddistinto i precedenti album. Hush Boy, Take Me Back to Your House e Hey You sono spiritose ma suonano sobrie ed incerte.

The best moments of Scars (Ultra, 2009) come when the emphasis is on recreating a retro style. Raindrops is the only number that sticks to the conventional techno/house format of their trademark hits. Feelings Gone is a close second in that style. Scars, instead, begins with litter of symphonic/operatic fragments wrapped around a platation rhythm and sound effects; then the female voice interacts with the operatic choir in a call-and-response fashion. She's No Good is a swinging thumping rhythm'n'blues with lots of keyboard diversions. Day of the Sunflowers (possibly the highlight) is a feverish charleston fanfare with an Hawaian-style melody. Overall, there is variety, but not quality: Saga is a robotic rigmarole over festive polyrhythm; Twerk is a propulsive rap piece; A Possibility is a slow sleepy twangy ballad; etc. But none of them has enough substance to justify the stylistic excursion. Guest vocalists include like Yoko Ono, Sam Sparro, Santogold, Kelis, Yo Majesty.

Basement Jaxx vs. Metropole Orkest (2011) collects remixes by the Metropole Orkest of the Netherlands orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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