Pop Live: The house that Jaxx built
Friday 19 November 1999
THIS TIME last year, Felix Buxton and Simon Radcliffe were little more than local heroes around their South London patch, known for holding excellent club nights in a succession of low-key venues and respected as producers within the incestuous, if global house scene. Twelve months later they have had several hit singles, released an acclaimed debut album, received the Best Newcomer award from Q magazine, and been invited to turn on Brixton's Christmas lights.
Certainly, Basement Jaxx's extraordinarily clever and varied Remedy album has hit a chord. Rather than taking the original acid explosion of 1987/8 as Year Zero, it recognises that electronic dance music existed long before, taking its cues from the fat synth basslines of the likes of Jam and Lewis and the Gap Band (now best remembered for generating a football chant) as much as the more familiar four on the floor, all the while recognising the sounds of contemporary multi-cultural Britain. In short, it's as aware of its progenitors as any rock album, yet still manages to sound completely up-to-date.
After several successful nationwide DJing stints, this first live tour was eagerly awaited by its audience.
The Academy is nothing more than an indeterminately large box, yet when filled with people ready to go wild, the club vibe is for real. Technology has advanced since the days when Kraftwerk had to pack up their entire studio and rebuild it on stage. This often means that too many live dance acts consist of a couple of men operating a few machines at the back of the stage. Buxton and Radcliffe are no exception, but with the assistance of their friends and collaborators we get to see a real show. These range from the dancer in her Rio Carnival outfit - including a feathered head- dress - to guest singers such as the excellent Blue James and Birmingham MC Slarter John. The latter's ecstatically received ragga-rap on "Jump'n'Shout" is the high point of the evening, and has the entire room bouncing, hands in the air.
In clumsier hands hit single "Red Alert" might have been no more than an update of M-People's smooth sound. And "Rendez-Vu", flamenco-style guitar to the fore, is not so far from the comforting favourites of drivetime FM. But live, these tracks punch harder than their pop weight, and besides, the Jaxx experimental side is never far away.
The Selecter-sampling "Same Old Show" is minimalist to the point that the music effectively stops entirely. The set closes with a brutally loud rendition of the brooding "Don't Give Up", and the encore, the fashionably Latin "Bingo Bango" concludes the night with frantic machine- generated percussive power.
A splendid show, easily blending the ear-friendly with the impressively unpleasant, with something for everyone. See them.
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