If the album sleeve suggests Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe have been busy concocting an intriguing, sinewy potion of funk, digital dancehall, shiny techno, psychedelic synth weirdness and dry desert calm it's certainly done the trick.
Basement Jaxx are back with a new album, then, and this time they've brought a full crew of mates with 'em.
The Brixton-based pair have always loved a collaboration or two ( Slarta John, Kele Le Roc , and Dizzee Rascal being among the best, most distinctive vocalists to have graced their tunes) but this time no less than a dozen tracks on Scars (out 21 September) include a guest. From this fifth album only lead single 'Raindrops' lacks a cameo and instead includes a Felix vocal and vocoders.
Such keen team spirit may have some believing the now-veteran house pioneers were incapable of coming up with their own ideas. After all, in 2009 it must be impossible for many followers of pop, dance or urban music to avoid sighing or rolling their eyes when they see yet another "Feat" credit under a song.
All too often those four letters mean, "I've got my more talented pal to come down and spit over a few bars to divert attention from the fact this song licks ring." Either that or, "I'm far too busy to write an entire song on my own while there are amply-jugged groupies in need of a ploughing. Get me Akon on speed dial."
So what about those guests? The inclusion of Beatles-splitting Japanese artloon Yoko Ono on 'Day Of The Sunflowers (We March On)' is inspired and provides the album's highlight.Yoko sings about “20,000 fishes coming down from the sky” before simulating being brought to climax. Well. Maybe she's simulating. Hard for a bloke to tell, sometimes. Either way it's terrific stuff, particularly as the tune has a stinging Justice bassline, elliptical Daft Punk/Kraftwerk bleeps, spaghetti western noises and warped computer game oscillations.
The Bellray's Lisa Kekaula, vocalist on 2004 single 'Good Luck', turns up on the unexpectedly sultry Prince slowjam 'Stay Close'. It's a rare calm moment on Scars and may sate the appetite of still-mourning Michael Jackson fans wanting another act to produce a new 'Man In The Mirror.' Detroit soul singer Amp Fiddler brings his Ice Cream van cool touch to 'A Possibility', the only other relaxed tune present and a winning blend of Hawaiin guitar bliss and afternoon sunshine.
Dev Hynes, aka emotive indie stalwart Lightspeed Champion, crops up for some inspired melancholy on ‘My Turn’. This being Basement Jaxx, Hynes yearning lilt and delicate acoustic guitar is accompanied by percussion which sounds like the feverish nocturnal twitching of agitated crickets and a formidably dense bassline. Elsewhere ‘Twerk’ may be named like a new, highly addictive street drug, but sounds like the perverted aunt of 1999 single ‘Jump N Shout’ with Slarta John’s MC-ing supplanted by fierce Tampa-based female rap duo Yo! Majesty’s rhyming.
Kelis's distinctive tar growl adorns the title track while Australian 'Black And Gold' hitmaker Sam Sparro gets histrionic on 'Feelings Gone', a superior chunk of charty house set to make a big splash as a single (release date TBC). This being a release from the band Armand Van Helden alleged, "Took house music and fucked it in the arse*," there is obviously tonnes more to be written about Scars, but this is a blog and not some endless navel-gazing wordspew**. For now only two things worth saying remain.
Santigold's vocal contribution to the brilliant nu-skool naughties Specials ska of 'Saga' is perhaps better than anything on her debut album of last year and the south London streets the Jaxx so love have clearly influnced their music again.
Scars couldn't be more Brixton if it tried to sell you drugs outside KFC.
*this is a very slight paraphrase for grammatical reasons.
** is there a difference?