Basement Jaxx: Kish Kash

Basement Jaxx
Kish Kash
Astralwerks

Who'd have thought they were holding back? Three years ago, Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton seemed to be showing off with Rooty, their Princely accoutrements and Eurodisco shout-alongs demonstrating just how progressive house music could be. But up against the innumerable stray fillips and hectic rhythmic shifts of Kish Kash the discrete songs on Rooty sound almost quaint. Like two men speaking at once, finishing each other's sentences, sometimes stepping on them, the Jaxx seem in a rush to unpack their ideas. Songs rarely end where they begin: The keyboards that ripple into a P-Funk style chorus on "Right Here's the Spot" later dissipate into a coda of tuneful crossfader gibberish. And on "Lucky Star" the duo introduce a vaguely Middle-Eastern keyboard hook only to bury it immediately in the mix; a variation on the melody bubbles underneath until it's reincarnated as a tweaked voice, like a repressed memory surfacing in a dream. Frantic and messy, yet never out of control, the tracks are like mash-ups constructed from hit songs you've never heard--except with dozens of tunes jumbled together instead of just two.

With its all-celebrity guest vocals, Kish Kash is almost a warped reflection of those all-star big money hip-hop collaborations--teaming up with JC Chasez of NSYNC on "Plug It In" could be a defiant aesthetic statement that a dance track doesn't need Justin. The duo don't turn to a tepid thrush like Ashanti for soul, they enlist Lisa Kekaula from the Bellrays or Me'Shell Ndegeocello, and instead of Jay-Z lounging against the beat, you've got Brit MC Dizzee Rascal rhyming manically. All this plus Siouxsie Sioux making "Cish Cash" the Yeah Yeah Yeahs cut of the year (did someone say of all time?). Even as accomplished a comp as The Neptunes Present Clones, the recent show of eclecticism from Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, sounds both austere and self-important in comparison--the representation of a night at the club, rather than the soundtrack to one. Ratcliffe and Buxton are too excited to play it cool, or maybe too uncool to mask their excitement. So many hooks, so little time.

 
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