A:xus Soundtrack 4 Life

The feeling of ecstasy, rather than the drug, has always been a part of house music; orgasmic anthems like "Break For Love" and "French Kiss" are the most popular examples. There's no doubt that Toronto producer Austin Bascom shares an interest in the matter, but he's one of the few to express it from positions of melancholy and yearning. His debut album under the alias A:xus (but also featuring tracks as A'ba-cus) reveals those voices with a depth of soul that's rarely been paralleled in the recent history of this music. "Baghdad Cafe (Callin' U)," "Near or Far" and "Nice To See You Again" fill the emptiness of loss between lovers with lyrics poetically illustrate their telepathic communion. The beats are minimal on such cuts, but like the vocals their pulse is hypnotic. On "When I Fall In Love" and "You Make Me Feel Like (Peace & Love & Happiness)" Bascom's songwriting is much more sentimental, but his production speaks from a place of intimacy that's bound to weaken the knees even while the bass keeps the feet on the floor. It's clear that this guy takes his romance seriously, but it’s more passionate than charming. The introspective electro layers on "My Planet Rocks" and the interstellar drum & bass interlude, "Oceans Between Us," attest to this. The only shortcomings of this album are in the instrumental down-tempo tracks like "Taxi Blues" and "Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days," where Bascom's production is flat by comparison. They do break up the album's flow, but nothing is as sophisticated and seductive when the beats are up and fine vocalists like Naomi N' Sembi, Rose Kazi and Bratticus (aka Esthero) are in his mix. (Guidance)