Nobody exemplifies the promiscuous impurism of late-'90s house music better than Basement Jaxx, the South London duo of Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe. On their two recent singles (four A sides + dub versions = an album's worth of stuff), virtually every track creates a new subgenre. "Red Alert" is P-Funk house: Bootsy slap-bass, g-funk synth, a chorus of psychedelic dwarves. Flipside "Yo Yo" has been hailed as "punk garage," for the Nirvana/Pixies heft of its fuzzed-out bass riff. But the chorus reminds me of Jamie Principle's eroto-mystic house classic "Baby Wants To Ride."
On the most recent single, "Jump 'n Shout" is raga-house driven by a flagrant, in-yer-face thug of a bassline and hectic patois patter; "Rendez-Vu" could be either "flamenco-house" or "The Genre Formerly Known as House," meshing Castilian guitar flurries, Zapp-style vocoder ditties, and a lush Prince-like decadence. Where most dance producers make a virtue of creative thrift, Buxton and Ratcliffe are maximalists: instead of interminable loops, you get new patterns every couple bars, sonic singularities, an insanity of detail. Yet the Basement boys' sonic largesse never degenerates into eclectic whimsy or that multilayered-but-not- integrated form of additive composition that undoes so much computer-based music.
The duo's debut album, due for April release, reveals even wilder twists to the contours of house as hitherto known like "Don't Give Up," a quiet Sturm und Drang ballad of billowing acid-bass and Scott Walker strings. Remedy looks set to do for house what Reprazent's New Forms did for jungle in '97 explode the genre's parameters, and grab the ear of the wider world beyond.
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