The World Comes Around to Basement Jaxx

The World Comes Around to <b>Basement Jaxx</b>
Felix Buxton may not be a vengeful sort, but he sure likes having the last laugh. Earlier this year, British house producers Justin Harris and Luke Solomon (collectively known as Freaks) released "What's the Point?," a diss track aimed at Buxton's Basement Jaxx. In the press release that accompanied the song, Solomon explained the motivation for the Jaxx dig: "As an artist you're given the right to speak your mind and all you do is rest on your laurels and stick to your formula. It's like, what's the point?"

Reached at a hotel in Belgium, Buxton avows that he's never heard the track in question, nor is he aware of Solomon's grandstanding. Shucks. Leave it to the Brits to blow their chance at a nasty intra-genre rivalry. Still, as retorts go, the latest Jaxx full-length goes some way in dispelling their renown as carnival-esque house impresarios. Where the duo's first two albums (1999's Remedy and 2001's Rooty) were jacked-up exercises in festival funk, Kish Kash is a dark pre-apocalyptic affair, offering us one last chance to party before the end of the world.

According to Buxton, he and partner Simon Ratcliffe undertook the recording of Kish Kash in a sober state of mind. While previous Jaxx influences included funk and house heroes like Prince and Todd Terry, the presence looming largest at the outset of album three was none other than Brian Eno. "We wanted get back to the basics of what music was about and why it was important to us," declares Buxton. "If we had started this album with a carnival-esque house track, that wouldn't have felt fresh for us. We were interested in creating that genre, but not necessarily continuing on with it."

As a result, the first song recorded for Kish Kash was also its most experimental; indeed, the album-concluding "Feels Like Home" is the gloomiest track in Jaxx history, a beatless dirge in which grinding electronics buzz under Meshell Ndegeocello's singing, "Hold my hand when you sleep/So when you dream I'm there with you."

Mournful as she sounds on that track, Ndegeocello injects "Right Here's the Spot" with unmatched sass, flipping the Jaxx's booty backing on its generous posterior. Elsewhere, the inimitable Dizzee Rascal lends his pinched-throat boasts to the gypsified "Lucky Star" while Siouxsie Sioux plunges to sleazy new depths on the punk-influenced "Cish Cash." With runs through Northern Soul ("Good Luck") and classic Jaxx-style funk ("Tonight"), Buxton and Ratcliffe have given a righteous middle finger to the dance establishment — Luke Solomon, included.

"The house culture that we were in originally seems to be exhausted," despairs the South Londoner. "It's for old people nowadays. If you go to the record shops, it's all thirtysomethings. It's time for a new dawn."

While they were making Kish Kash, Buxton and Ratcliffe stayed away from clubs, preferring to ignore the latest fads in dance culture. When they finished recording the album, the producers ventured back into club land, only to find that the rest of London has finally caught up to their genre-hopping ways.

"I was amazed at how things have progressed," recalls Buxton of a recent night on the town. "People were starting to dress individually again, whether it was funny haircuts or interesting clothes or whatever. And the music they were playing in nearly every bar was just all over the place, rock mixed to house mixed to country music. It was all different tempos and vibes, and people were into it just like it when I was first going to clubs. I thought to myself, ‘God, that's a stroke of luck.' I guess we were on the right track all along."