Basement Jaxx kept the music playing all night long on their 1999 debut, Remedy, but on its follow-up, Rooty, the South London duo focused on producing timeless melodies and infusing them with limitless soul.
"The songs don't hang around much," said the Jaxx's Simon Ratcliffe. "They're kind of straight into it, quite concise."
His partner, Felix Buxton, said the duo looked beyond the dance-music realm for inspiration on the new record, due June 26.
"It's probably a reaction to all the dancing going on and on and on," he said, subtly referencing Remedy's smash hit "Red Alert." "If you think about great old songs — funk, soul, reggae, whatever — there's a song, that's what it's saying, it makes you feel good. Hear it again if you want to get that feeling again; don't stretch it out into six mixes and half an hour. What's the point? You've got one life, you wanna live it now."
Although Basement Jaxx were founded by Ratcliffe and Buxton some seven years ago, the worldwide success of Remedy and its fun-loving singles "Rendez-Vu," "Red Alert" and "Bingo Bango" placed them in the upper echelon of dance-music stardom. But rather than make an album studded with the hottest vocalists of the day and aimed at the pop stratosphere, the Jaxx stuck to their guns and did their own thing.
"It's kind of the anti-dance-music thing of no vocals, no personality, no expression," Buxton said. "We want to say, 'Here's some expression, here's some personality; take it or leave it.' Otherwise things get too bland. You've gotta stand up for something."
Longtime supporters of the local scene, the duo chose to tap into the neighborhood's wealth of talent to find Rooty's guests. Kele Le Roc, a London R&B singer, supplies the umph on "Romeo," the album's incendiary opening track (Ratcliffe and Buxton provide the sing-song chorus), while Eeliot May adds a scat-style swing to the old-school house ode "Do Your Thing." Buxton himself sings on four tracks, "Breakaway," "All I Know," "Crazy Girl" and the delicious, soaring "Just One Kiss."
That said, the trendiest of English musical styles at the moment, two-step, is a key player on Rooty, whose title comes from a Japanese flier for a Jaxx show that mistranslated a description of the duo as "rootsy." Ratcliffe and Buxton appropriated the name for a monthly underground party in their South London neighborhood of Brixton (they both live in nearby Camberwell now), which they employed as a sort of testing ground for new material, much of which found its way onto the new album.
One of those tracks, "Romeo," is the album's first single and video.
"We did that probably six months ago, weren't sure about it, then played a version of it at the club," Ratcliffe explained. "It went down really well, people were asking about it, so we relistened to it and kept on doing different versions of it."
In another move toward keeping it real, the Jaxx said they'll be avoiding as much as possible including remixes on the singles from Rooty.
"Often remixes just seem to be what you expect, and often they're a waste of time, and often they're quite unspectacular," Ratcliffe explained. "So we're gonna have more B-sides instead. We'll do a couple of new songs to go on the other side."
Buxton said that for the U.S. release of "Romeo" they might eschew the idea in honor of a couple of superstars.
"We might have a remix from the Neptunes or Timbaland in America," he revealed. "In 'Romeo' particularly there's elements of American house and R&B that we've taken, and we're sending it back to America, so someone like Timbaland would represent the cutting-edge production over here."