With the sudden re-emergence of electronic music’s favorite son, the Aphex Twin, it seems that electronica/EDM/that car alarm sound (whatever you want to call it) is falling into a particularly ruminative period; a self-reflective time to allow genre-heads to recollect and examine the general state of the genre as a whole. Now, electronic music – repackaged as EDM by elements of the popular press – has once again turned towards the mainstream. By and large, the kids of the EDM scene have done more to extend electronic music as a brand, rather than by offering anything particularly sonically innovative to the genre.
It would be fair to say then that returning veterans Basement Jaxx have released their seventh LP at a rather opportune time. This latest release by the British duo is largely business as usual: it isn’t Karlheinz Stockhausen, it isn’t Kraftwerk, either – it’s not even Brian Eno’s long-lost and possibly non-existent ‘Music For Piss-ups’, but neither is it an overtly gratuitous attempt to fit in with their EDM peers. Instead, Junto dutifully sweeps up the emergent trends of the last two decades inside one neat and concise package; it’s a party record that simultaneously plays as a somewhat extensive anthology of popular electronic music; a frenzied celebration of the genre, in a time where its proponents are forcing us to look back in order to move forward once again.
So then, here we have 13 tracks which wrap the rhythms of house music around a range of multifaceted pop templates, the sound of a band attempting to create something dynamic and encompassing in scope: the results, however, are largely mixed. Instantly inviting, Junto clearly aims to please throughout its running duration, whilst simultaneously alienating those who enjoy the more avant and obtuse sides of the genre. Opening track ‘Power To The People’ captures the duo in a suitably rousing and cosmopolitan mood. Soundtracked by some rather staid “we have the power”vocal chants, steel drums and shuffling percussion, the track is wilfully eclectic and sonically vibrant. This is about as organic as electronic music could ever possibly get without compromising its static-infused stratosphere entirely: electronica, it appears, has gone big band. For those who have followed the band through the decades, the opening track is an instantly recognizable Basement Jaxx product.
‘Buffalo’ is about as aggro as Junto allows itself to get, featuring a spiky drum attack and rapper Mykki Blanco’s machine gun-like vocal delivery – it’s also the central highlight of the record. On the downside we have a few middling tracks which don’t really progress anywhere interesting. Despite the spacey, interstellar inclinations of ‘We Are Not Alone,’ the track spends the full duration of its three minutes and forty-two seconds simply regurgitating various clichés of the genre. On the track, Basement Jaxx incorporate dub step’s burbling skronk in an attempt to approximate the most recent genre trends. It’s official: Basement Jaxx are the David Bowie of electronic music. Overall, Junto is in many ways a pre-subscribed product: it will undoubtedly please the Jaxx’s already existent fanbase, but for others it will represent the sound of a group stuck in a neutral gear.