Basement Jaxx - Junto
by Matthew Graham
The chronology of Junto’s release is interesting, as Brixton duo, Basement Jaxx, haven’t officially put out a full length EP since 2009; five years is a long time in the music industry to not showcase anything new. Yet Buxton and Ratcliffe have been dropping both hints and actual tracks from their latest album since 2011, albeit on the quiet. This means that Basement Jaxx have been both paradoxically dormant and active in the music scene since Zephyr. I personally hadn’t heard much from them after Scars’ lead single, Raindrops, so Junto held a lot of expectation from me and also, I’m sure, for the many others who had actually kept up to date with Jaxx’s goings on.
Now I have to confess that the only album I physically own by the duo is the 2005 offering, The Singles, so my experience of Basement Jaxx has always been a little disjointed. As a result I was quite excited to experience their music as an album, its own entity, rather than a collection of singles that don’t necessarily fit together cohesively. I wanted to see how well the duo mixed the tracks that were not going to be released separately from Junto. To start with, the album felt like it was going to be a minor task to get through as it’s nearly 53 minutes long; not many recently released dance albums released can live up to this. I also feared that the tracks might jar with one another, a misconception brought over from only listening to The Singles.
However, what I discovered was an album that was both enjoyable and incredibly easy to listen to. Junto flows together seamlessly with the simultaneous vibrancy of a tribal heartbeat, the interstellar chirps of a spaceship and the majestic effervescence of a carnival. The album sounds exotic but it also contains the underlying message of unity – as demonstrated in the dancehall rhythms of Power To The People and the soda-pop fizziness of We Are Not Alone - both equally uplifting tracks. If anything, Junto proves that the main focus of EDM should be to act on that primal urge to dance and that despite criticism of the genre, the need to express ourselves through the movement of our bodies is a universal human experience (which Junto emphasises in What’s The News, with cries of “S.W.E.A.T”).
As well as these themes, Junto also encapsulates that sense of a dusk-to-dawn night out partying. The excitement builds up with Unicorn’s throbbing bass and girlish vocals – a completely club ready track that would sit comfortably alongside the likes of Disclosure. The following song, Never Say Never, exudes the chilled house vibe that has become so familiar to anyone listening to the charts. At the midway point we even get the more aggressive Buffalo, sounding like perhaps one has had a few too many.
The night (and album) concludes with the perfect finale, Love Is At Your Side, whose soothing melodies provide the much needed calmness after the energetic ride Junto takes the listener on. The track’s vocorder-esque vocals harness a mystifying power that leaves the listener feeling as though they have had a deeply spiritual experience. What’s more, there were also nods to Basement Jaxx’s older works with Summer Dem, cranking up the funk guitar with an upbeat sunny track that is reminiscent of former hit, Oh My Gosh.
Yet Junto is not without its flaws. What’s The News lets the album down and I felt it was lacklustre and repetitively went in no real direction, despite its cajoling call to the dance floor. I didn’t care much for the stripped back Something About You or Buffalo either - neither of these tracks bounded along with the positive radiance that Junto generally exudes. While yes, as a whole, the album is strong and accomplished at the same time, I found it wasn’t particularly mind blowing – there was nothing I hadn’t really heard before. But then again, I guess that’s the main problem with EDM as a genre; it’s incredibly hard to create something truly groundbreaking.
Overall, Junto was a tricky one to quantify into a rating. To me, 3.5 seemed a little too low for this very well put together and totally enjoyable album. The songs which really stood out to me (see my Picks) were undeniably great and are definitely going straight onto my Most Played. Yet I felt that giving it a 4 was just too high as it didn’t particularly blow my mind. I haven’t come away from Junto a changed person. Indeed its offerings have not ultimately wowed me, but what Junto has done is left me a lot more contented and upbeat.