A nifty return to form from Basement Jaxx leaves them three steps ahead

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The Independent Culture

As the dance phenomneon of the late Nineties, Basement Jaxx duo Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe brought the pogoing, "punk disco" energy of their rowdy south London club nights to daytime radio, showing a popular touch largely missing since their heady days of rave.

So while last year's album Crazy Itch Radio was something of a disappointment, the duo's latest offering on their own Atlantic Jaxx label shows they've not entirely lost theold magic. Released under the alias Nifty, the imaginatively titled Nifty EP buzzes with sonic invention, from the sweatbox intensity of "Northern Clubz" to the title track's irrepressible retro rave fervour.

It also finds the Jaxx boys at least three steps ahead of their would-be imitators, such as Manchester duo Elektrons, whose single "Dirty Basement" (Wall Of Sound) soulnds like a Basement Jaxx b-side.

Yet for Parisian producer Pilooski the song always comes first. An expert at re-editing obscurities into club hits (previous targets of his Dirty Edits project include The The), his Northern Soul-like recasting of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' 1967 hi "Beggin'" (679) is practically all tune, with Valli's aching falsetto sounding just as raw and urgent four decades on.

In electronic music, though, songs are often just window-dressing. What really counts are the beats. Italian-Swedish producer Aril Brikha first made a stir back in 1997 when the streamlined pulse of his single "Groove La Chord" was picked up by Detroit luminary Derrick May. New collection, Ex Machina (Peacefrog), is equally locked into trance-like minimalism, though the body-popping moves of "Lady 707" show he can get funky too.

For genre-defying dexterity, though, it's hard to beat Gabriel Olegavich, founder of punk-outfit Spektrum. He's now decided to invent yet another ego, Caspa COdina, for new sinle "Technology" (StopStart) - an inspired fusion of Eighties electro bleeps and bizarre lyrics.

Being the musical magpie he is, Olegavich would no doubt appreciate the efforts of Buraka Som Sistema, a Lisbon-based trio whose single "Yah!" (Modular) is a riotous, electro-techno variant on Angolan dance sound known as "kuduro", or "hard ass". Big in Portugal last summer, it's likely to remain a cult oddity here.

Sadly, the same fate probably awaits The Black Ghosts' "It's Your Touch" (Southern Fried), a beguiling disco-soul number remixed by dance veteran Ashely Beedle and voiced by Simon Lord, ex of indie-dance act Simian Mobile Disco, "I Believe" (Wichita) - a brilliant Daft Punk-like slow jam now remixed by "space disco" maestor Prins Thomas and high-frequency maverick Switch.

Prins Thomas is in danger of flooding the market this summer. Although his latest venture, a double mix CD, more than lives up to its engagingly preposterous title Cosmo Galactic Prism (Eskimo), spanning the music of troubled Sixties visionary JOe Meek, Seventies funk legends Parliament and Italian house oddball Visnadi - not to mention the occasional segue into Thomas's own brand of electronic disco.

Still, it hasn't got it's finger on the zeitgeist quite as firmly as the fourth compilation from über-trendy Parisian label Kitsuné - Kitsuné Maison Compilation 4. Run by longtime Daft Punk collaborator Gildas Loaëc, Kitsuné have previously championed the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, MSTRKRFT and Digitalism, and this is no less cuttin-edge featuring a host of spiky electro-punk acts with arch names like Punks Jump Up and Riot In Belgium. Vivid, spirited and, in terms of where dance music is at right now, not unlike arriving at the hippest nightclub in town and being ushered straight to the front of the queue.