Nearly 15 years after the first house track was released in Chicago — Jessie Saunder’s “Fantasy” — the incredibly hyped Basement Jaxx bursts through with a radical reinterpretation of late-night, booty-grinding grooves. Forsaking classically smooth, deep R&B house sounds for rough ‘n’ ready, ragga-heavy jams, the Brixton, England, duo, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, has developed a style of cheeky, in-your-face garage punk. Merging garage — a soulful deep house style typically filled with vocals — with jump-up rhythms and aggressive MC-ing, on “Remedy” Basement Jaxx renovates the old house and gives it enough bad attitude to match the current trends of dark drum ‘n’ bass and hard electro.
Basement Jaxx moves asses as much as it kicks them, transferring the energy of a mosh pit to an after-hours house club. You can still wear cute platforms and facial glitter, but instead of tripping out on a sweet hit of E and gliding across the dance floor, you down a pint of rum and bang your fists in the air. Fuck it all, the rugged beats and harsh vocals seem to say.
Launching headfirst into the attack is the gorgeously heated “Rendez-Vu,” an ecstatic floor stomper that works a Spanish guitar sample with the vehemence of a Joe Strummer shred-fest. On the raucous, deep-pumping “Yo-Yo,” a female MC mumbles something that sounds a lot like “You came, now suck my butt … Word.” Fabulous. “Red Alert,” the everywhere club anthem that almost everyone with the prefix “DJ” seems to have already remixed, continues the hesher ragga vibe with the added P-Funk bass lines and who-you-lookin’-at? vocals. Sexed up in a hardcore porno kind of way, the funked-out “Same Old Show” culminates in an excited female coming through the sampler with unabashed joy.
While the days of filtered disco and straight-up 4/4 dance rhythms are fading, the cathartic, life-affirming essence of house music will never die. Dancers love its orgasmic power: There’s no experience like turning it out on a dingy, dimly lit dance floor at 5 a.m. By directing house into darker, more assertive planes, Basement Jaxx helps mature the genre, and enables it to stand up to the less optimistic, harder future of sound.
Amanda Nowinski is a freelance writer in San Francisco.More Amanda Nowinski.