There was a time when Basement Jaxx were good. Actually no, there was a time when Basement Jaxx were f*%king awesome!
Long before the pop chart led output that has dogged their later years hit, they were releasing some amazing tracks via their own Atlantic Jaxx imprint back in the mid 90’s. This is before they got snapped up by Virgin. Stuff that can only be described as deep experimental jacking Chicago House, which brought them to the attention of anyone with an interest in House Music.
The first few releases were relatively low key, EP1 in 1994 and EP2 and the SummerDaze EP in 1995 are still three of my favourite house EP’s ever. I’d go further and say that Be Free (featured track) from EP2 is probably in my top 5 House tracks of all time. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that they’d made all the original material digitally available on E-music, saving me the time and effort of ripping the vinyl back to digital myself.
Meeting and cutting their teeth on the squat led free party scene of the early 90’s, Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton ran the Basement Jaxx club night at the George the IV pub in Brixton. It was a secretive affair, you needed to “know someone who knew” to get on the mailing list – not through lack of trying I never made it on. But when it outgrew the George the IV they set up the excellent Rooty club night at the Telegraph on Brixton Hill and like James Murphy “I was there”, oh yes, I was there. I can remember as clear as day making the long trek from deepest darkest Essex to the tiny little coffee shop just on Electric Avenue in Brixton, which was the only place to buy one of the 200 tickets available. It was an odyssey but totally worth it, it was a fun time, a great party, done on the cheap in the back of a pub hosted by two genuinely nice and approachable guys with excellent surprise guest DJ’s. It was intimate, and sleazy and everything a great club night should be – much like their early music was everything you wanted in house music.
The nice thing with all of the early output is how simple yet spot on the production was. Be it a straight jacking drum track or an overly musical track like Be Free it still stands up now. If you get the chance, do revisit their older work, anything on the Atlantic Jaxx imprint pre-98 is a good place to start, including the solo work as Buxton and Ratcliffe. It's also really interesting how much of their commercial work was derived from reinterpreting their more underground stuff, Fly Life for example was a huge smash hit for them yet it's basically a filtered and looped cut up of the amazing "Live your life with me" by Corrina Jospeh (incidentally on that same EP there is a down tempo version of Live your life with me that is nothing short of stunning).
As I mentioned earlier, the track “Be Free” is in my top 5 house tracks of all time, well ok maybe top 10, but even so it’s a track that should be viewed with nothing less than the utmost respect.
I have a thing for tracks that start somewhere and build to somewhere else, this is one of those tracks. Starting out with a very simple Rhodes loop, the track introduces new layers of drums, strings and synths as it progresses, mangling each element through a filter as the song builds until it becomes completely overpowering. It’s 7 minutes of Euphoric mentalness that grab you and pulls you along for the ride whether you like it or not.
It’s a phenomenal piece of music be it a house track or not, so enjoy
Playlist Wednesday 14 March 2012
Obviously most days the track I blog is pretty much down to luck of the draw, but sometimes I have a hankering for something specific and the scope is narrowed down significantly. With the thought that it was about time I put some new music on my player I was in the process of changing the collection of songs on it when I inadvertently pressed play on an old Basement Jaxx track and realising how great it was decided to revisit the early Atlantic Jaxx. As I mentioned I’d recently picked up all the original Atlantic Jaxx material again via E-music (no I don’t get paid by them), and decided to load it all up.
I started with the summer sounds of Airto Morena smashing tracks Samba Magic and Phase 2 Hi, straight up Chicago tracks in a DJ sneak mold. Then jumped in the deep end with both feet and listened to Urban Haze, and Be Free (as above), from there I rolled back time and listened to the entirety of EP1 to finish I went down town chi-town and rocked out to the mighty "Green Velvet Remix" of Fly Life by Cajmere, which if you haven't heard it is bloody amazing.
Playlist: Summer Daze – Samba Magic, Summer Daze – Phase 2 Hi, Basement Jaxx – Urban Haze, Basement Jaxx – Be Free, Basement Jaxx – Don't Stop, Basement Jaxx – Deep in Night, Basement Jaxx -Deep inside your love, Basement Jaxx -Underground, Basement Jaxx – Flylife (Cajmeres Green velvet Remix)