hey keep telling trs dance is dead. While
it‘s true that club attendance has fallen.
ticket sales for gigs have risen sharply over the last few years. Not only are Basement Jaxx here to provide the perfect crossover. but they are leading the charge to reinvigorate dance music — to twist it and mutate it into a new form.
That’s not to say the Jaxx themselves. whose new album. Kisli Kris/i. is out now. are tiring of the format. ‘I mean. I still like house and dance music even though we slag it off.‘ explains Simon Ratcliffe. half of the Basement Jaxx engine room alongside Felix Buxton. 'l think in the studio we were like “this is our third album" and it felt like a bit of a low ambition to just get a house beat together. I was going back to my rock roots again. feeling slightly disillusioned with the dance scene.‘ Which might be why Kis/i Kusli is such a stomping monster of styles and soundclashes that in any lesser hands would come across as muddled and confusing. ‘A lot of songs started off with a few guitar cords. not a loop or a heat. so that immediately changes how you do things.‘ he says.
‘We weren‘t really sure what to do at the beginning of the album and being dancey wasn’t really a priority or something to be excited about for us any more.‘ Now. this is not a statement you would have expected from Basement Jaxx. Ratcliffe — who was a prolific bedroom producer in the early 90s — had a passion for music that really helped the Jaxx get off the ground in the first place. ‘I was very excited by the rave scene. the break beats. the jungle noises. this modern. really anarchic music. I had a four track. some decks and a little keyboard and from that I started releasing records and they went down well. I think what I liked about it was I could do it and I didn’t have to negotiate with anyone. I could make a tune. go and get it cut on just £500 and within two or three weeks you had a record on the racks with [Ms playing it. With dance music it was so instant: you didn‘t have to have an image or a look. It was just about getting energy into tunes. something that would give people a buzz on Friday night. You could be as innovative as you wanted and it was a challenge to make the weirdest. most fucked tip noises imaginable.‘
Techno star turned electro producer Luke Slater shares Ratcliffe‘s pessimistic view on current club culture. ‘When turntables are on Bachelors (‘uppa Soup ads. it's worrying. It's the nail in the coffin really.‘ Dance music was once underground and fresh — now it is piped into Top Shop and soundtracks the footie. But as the baron of techno. Dave (‘larke points out: ‘I wouldn't say clubbing is dying out. just shite clubbing is dying out. And that’s no bad thing.‘
Sister Bliss of Faithless fame. and a respected house DJ in her own right. also sees a change. but doesn‘t think it‘s necessarily a bad thing. ‘I think people just have to remember to keep music emotional and not go down a dark path that may seem very cool. but people need emotion.‘ she says. ‘I feel really proud because Faithless exist slightly outside of that btrt it’ll maybe get people who absolutely adore house music out clubbing again. It won‘t just be something everybody does. it‘ll be a bit more intimate.‘
As for the Jaxx. they obviously don‘t fancy being pigeonholed. 'We have our own sound and hopefully with that sound we can tackle any kind of music.‘ says Ratcliffe. ‘I think we are just
‘WE TAILOR THE LIVE SHOW: IT'S
DANCEABLE AND LESS REF LECT IVE'
restless. we naturally get bored. If we do something that is very energetic and noisy we do something completely opposite the next day and that‘s how we go on dabbling in extremes.‘ And it is these extremes that have lead to a seemingly random roster of guest stars. btit their involvement was very organic. ‘We try to bring them into our world rather than rrs going into theirs. Their little flavour but in the Basement Jaxx world. We wanted a different kind of voice. a rockier voice for ‘(iood Luck’. We'd heard the Bellrays' Cl) and she [Lisa Kekaulal sounded like she had a great voice. so we got her to come over. And .lC (‘basez lii‘Nsync] popped into the studio to talk about working on his album: the day he came in we were working on ‘Plug it in‘ and we were having trouble finding a singer. We asked him to give it a go while he was there and it ended tip on the album. That could never have been planned.‘
Their Brixton home — a melting pot of cultures and sounds that was the birth place of the Jaxx — has always inspired and influenced their music. They met over a Masters at Work record in l994 — Ratcliffe had his hand in several bands and home recording while Buxton was in the party promotion business. After a slew of incredibly well received lil’s on their own Atlantic Jaxx label they got round to their first album proper in 1999 with the extraordinary Reina/y: It was inclusive in its scope. sampling everything from techno to disco to ragga. As Armand van llelden put it. they took dance music and ‘fucked it tip the ass‘.
They always managed to meld seemingly disparate elements to create a coherent whole — as demonstrated by the punk-funk- house insanity of the deliciously delirious ‘Where‘s Your Head At‘ from 200! 's R()()I_\'. This time they have multiplied these elements massively. Kis/i Kas/r is a dense record of varying styles with everyone from Mercury Music Prize-winning garage scamp Dizee Rascal to old dame of goth Siouxie Sioux on guest duties.
As for dance. charting its success has all too often been a quantitative one. Superclubs expanded until their bloated bodies and tedious
trance cannibalised itself. and you never knew if
you were at Gatecrasher. (‘ream or wherever because they all became carbon copies of each other. There is a strong argument that underground will once again stake its claim on the real clubbers. and acts like Basement Jaxx. with their
spellbinding live shows and intimate knowledge of
dance music's limitations. as well as its potential. will lead the way. ‘We‘ve always felt a bit embarrassed about being a dance act and doing the live thing. as everyone knows you can't reproduce dance music completely live so why pretend? Why pretend it‘s interesting and try and look intense as you twiddle your knob on your computer"? In some ways the music is secondary. The live shows are a visual thing. it's about entertainment. We tailor the live show. we make it more danceable and less reflective because were aware that people who come to see us are not there to ponder the meaning of life but to have a good time and jump up and down.‘ It’s the excitement the Jaxx inject by subverting the formula that makes sure we do just that and is just the attitude that‘s needed to keep dance music offthe critical list.
Basement Jaxx play Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Sun 7 Dec.
In the words of The Streets’ Mike Skinner, ‘Let’s push things forward’. Here are another half dozen reasons why the cadaver of dance music is still twitching.
They may have s0undtracked some crap phone ads and snuck onto a few dinner party playlists but the future $0und of Bergen is the rrtuSrcal equrvalent of snuggling into yOur very own cumulus: huge. soft. fat and fluffy. They shone as the stars of the Slam tent at T in the Park this year. Unique Selling Point: Scando savoir faire.
After spearheading the breaks movement a few years back Adam Freeland picked up a clutch of awards before forming this Quartet. Sonically, it's what wetild have happened had the Prodigy been hanging with Bill Hicks instead of the Appletons. USP: A real live band with real live attitude . . .
Mike Skinner's Original Pirate Material Wlll one day be recognised as the finest debut album since Never Mind the
Bollocks. . . Until then n ., . i ‘ ' he'll just have to make do with being one of the most addictive live performers anywhere. His hard luck tales prove that dance musrc is more than just faceless knob-middling. USP: Wide boy charm. Oi!
Peaches The high queen of electro filth — who else could get away With naming their new album
. Fame/fucker”? Live it's K JUSi her and a battered ‘ i. backing track but still she spellbinds wrth outrageous energy and scandalous behaviOur that oozes sticky charisma. USP: Chicks wrth dicks.
Christ Combining elements of 70s analogue sounds with modern electronica. Christ is a mainstay of local label BenbeCuIa and a regular on John ' Peel. On the back of
his album Metamorphic Reproduction Miracle. he played out to a capabity Crowd at this year's Sonar. USP: Integrity.
Death in Vegas The kings of the psychedelic electro dirge have grown to become crossover gurus when
. y it comes to indie and dance. So much so that they're producmg OaSis' next album. Dark and foreboding. their live shows are a rush of seti/zy adrenaline. USP: Electro grunge mixed With moddish sophistication.
(Mark Robertson and Henry Northmorel
i’i' Nov 1 1 Der: 2003 THE LIST 17