British house duo Basement Jaxx served up a tasty summer treat with their wonderfully smooth and sexy sophomore release, Rooty. With a flavorful, cosmic stew of grace and sophistication and an effortless overflow of multi-layered rhythmic and vocal complexities, the follow-up to their beat-chugging disc Remedy will disappoint neither avid house-heads nor virtually anyone with a taste for interesting dance music.
Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe have done it again, using infectious, accessible song structures while incorporating a genuine homage to music’s rich history. The duo brings house to the masses without dumbing it down in an irritatingly repetitive and simplistic fashion. A relief from the mundane, Basement Jaxx draw on everything from ’70s-inspired discotheque to late-’80s club beats and hard-funk synth bass. Rooty shows a broad range of sounds, moving from two-step and disco-house to gospel jazz to harder industrial beats in 12 tracks of real music.
Like any world music junkie would, the duo uses Latin, jazz, and cabaret rhythms, while also allowing as much praise to R&B, funk and show tunes as to more traditional electronic means. “Broken Dreams,” a catchy, Broadway-inspired track in the middle of the album, has a pleasant orchestral feel without losing its electronic roots. Kele La Roc’s performance far exceeds the vocals on the last album, now claiming mastery of the steamy come-on on tracks like “Get Me Off.”
The group’s tongue-in-cheek humor surfaces on much of the album, most prominently on the summer club anthem “Romeo,” in which the songstress laments a break-up “You’re neurotic like a yo-yo/You used to be my Romeo/Let it all go.” The beat keeps your head bouncing and the production of the vocals moves in and out fluidly in gorgeous layers.
Basement Jaxx pose an interesting question on perhaps the most exciting work on the album, “Where’s Your Head At?” The track is an unstoppable, pulsing mix that uses overlapping strings and the group’s signature funky synth noises against the heart-pounding bass beat. This dark track also makes an appearance on the movie soundtrack for Tomb Raider. Anyone who has a taste for electronic music should own this disc, which features The Chemical Brothers, Moby, Fatboy Slim, and remixes of U2, Nine Inch Nails, and Missy Eliot.
Rooty has been unfairly criticized for sounding like an attempt to “Jaxx-ify” pop songs in an effort to please a more mainstream audience. Truth be told, the album shows wide musical variety, and the result is nothing but pure fun and adrenaline. While Remedy may out-do Rooty in its ability to scorch the dance floor, Basement Jaxx’s release will more than likely get your booty shaking and tickle your taste buds with a much-needed burst of flavor during a summer highly lacking in any substantially impressive new music.