Basement Jaxx Junto on 2LP + CD
Basement Jaxx are on top of the world. It’s a view these inveterate musical explorers have long embraced, ever since minting, at the turn of the millennium, the currently voguish, airwave-dominating pop-house sound. But as they prepare to release their earth-shaking, hip-shaking new album, that view is taking on added meaning. Junto is Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton's seventh studio album. Two years in the making, it’s the first since they set out on their own after the completion of their decade-plus contract with XL.
Therefore Junto is the sound of freedom. It’s the sound of ambition. And it’s the sound of Simon and Felix diving back into sunshine and the spotlight. The spirit of the album is there in the title. Junto means together in Spanish. It’s definitely not to be confused with the name for a despotic Latin American regime. And Simon and Felix wear their heart on their record sleeve: the cover of Junto features a new logo based on “clouds and nature and sacred geometry,” which was created by the winner of a design competition the duo ran a couple of years ago.
Junto features walk-on vocals from singers they met in the car park of their studio (Niara, big-lunged singer of "Power To The People"), on the street at the Edinburgh Festival (Scottish rapper Patricia Panther, who’s on the sexually gobby "Summer Dem"), and from amidst the ranks of their carny-style Jaxx family touring party (Shakka, who toplines the World Cup samba-party vibes of "Rock This Road").
Opening the album after an intro fanfare is "Power To The People." The celestial strum of harp ushers in an anthem of global togetherness. Without getting all barefoot hippy and fluffbrained dippy, "Power To The People" is a call to peaceful arms. Niara’s clarion vocal is backed by a kids’ chorus, 5000 fans recorded on Basement Jaxx’s last tour, and The Recycled Orchestra of Catuera in Paraguay. It’s big of melody and even bigger of aspiration.
And there’s more on a vividly colorful album that bustles and bursts with robustly peacenik atmos. The closing song, "Love Is At Your Side," a hymn to Simon’s young daughter, is sung by folkie Sam Brookes, and is like Bon Iver taking the mic at Café Del Mar. It’s a suntan for the soul, and it’s glorious.
The first single, meanwhile, is the euphoric "Never Say Never," a scorcher-in-waiting. It’s not so much radio-friendly as radio-frisky, supremely joyous and irresistibly feel-good. Sung by south London school-leaver sensation ETML, flecked with strings and studded with piano, it’s youthful British soul-house at its ear-tingling best. And that’s only about half of the tracks and only a fraction of the guests and players and ideas on this bold, boisterous, brilliant album.
Basement Jaxx Junto Track Listing:
2. Power To The People
4. Never Say Never
5. We Are Not Alone
6. What’s The News
7. Summer Dem
9. Rock This Road
10. Sneakin’ Toronto
11. Something About You
12. Mermaid Of Salinas
13. Love Is At Your Side