Album reviews: Basement Jaxx | Tina Dico | Gemma Ray

Basement Jaxx duo Simon Ratcliffe (left) and Felix Buxton. Picture: Emma Blau
Basement Jaxx duo Simon Ratcliffe (left) and Felix Buxton. Picture: Emma Blau
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IT’S rare bordering on unheard-of for a dance producer to remain relevant to their original audience, while also giving the impression that they’re continuing to chase a sound which is fresh and surprising with every new release.

Basement Jazz - Junto

Atlantic Jaxx/Pias

****

It may have been almost five years since their last splurge (one so fruitful it brought two albums in the same year, Scars and Zephyr), but Basement Jaxx’s creative forces Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe are still covering all of the above bases with their seventh album.

The name Junto means “together” in Spanish, and that remains the effect they’re going for, a carnivalesque party sound which compels on and off the dancefloor. It takes no time at all to build, with a synthesised female voice of the kind Prince might employ welcoming us “to the world of Basement Jaxx” before a thundering tribal rhythm and an Amazonian choir kick in. The opener proper, Power To The People, is perhaps the most predictable and Jaxx-like thing here, a bright blend of Caribbean steel drums and stabbing mid-90s club keyboards which wouldn’t have sounded out of place soundtracking this summer’s World Cup.

It’s all very pleasant, but there are many more examples of what Basement Jaxx do better here, from the minimal old-school rave of Unicorn to the contemporary nu-soul of Never Say Never and We Are Not Alone. As ever, a range of guest voices and vocal styles contribute to the album’s overall sound, and it’s a particular pleasure to hear the thickly accented tones of Glasgow’s own Patricia Panther on the bubbly Summer Dem, in good company alongside DJ Sneak on the chiming techno of Sneakin’ Toronto and Andrea Terrano and Raghu Dixit over Mermaid Of Salinas’ sun-kissed Brazilian beat.

• Download: Unicorn, Sneakin’ Toronto

POP

Tina Dico - Whispers

Finest Gramophone

***

A big deal at home in Denmark, where she has had multiple No 1 albums, and now resident in Iceland, Tina Dico is perhaps best known in the UK as a collaborator on London chill-out duo Zero 7’s 2004 album When It Falls. Yet there’s a distinctly transatlantic feel to her latest album, set off by a convincing stateside vocal twang and an ambling country air reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. It’s a somewhat single-paced record, but within that Dico plays with tone masterfully, from the pent-up sexuality of The Woman Downstairs to the cheery Old Friends and Thank You’s sense of grateful world-weariness.

• Download: The Woman Downstairs, Old Friends

Gemma Ray - Milk For Your Motors

Bronze Rat

****

You might not expect an emigrant from Essex to the hipster capital of Berlin to sound like Gemma Ray, a softly toned singer with a talent for shuffling country ballads. Here, her abilities in writing open-hearted torch songs are augmented by a great band (their number features at various points such mismatched luminaries as Suicide’s Alan Vega and Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb) which provides crashing drama amid slowed-down surf guitar, mean bass notes and some delicately frayed piano. David Lynch would probably approve of such evocations of dark Americana as Motorbike’s guitar-simulated Harley roar and The Right Thing Did Me Wrong’s grimy psych-country groove.

• Download: The Right Thing Did Me Wrong, You Changed Me

DAVID POLLOCK

JAZZ

Ella Fitzgerald - Song Books Volume 3

Real Gone Jazz B00IROIAK8

*****

Some of Ella Fitzgerald’s song book albums – each focusing exclusively on the work of one great songwriter or songwriting team – are essentials for the record collections of even those of us who don’t count the legendary vocalist as a personal favourite. Why? Because they celebrate the work of the greatest contributors to the Great American Songbook, they are sung with elegance, insight and understanding, and they treat the songs like the works of art that many of them are. These four discs comprise Fitzgerald’s wonderful tributes to the Gershwin brothers and to Harold Arlen, with Nelson Riddle’s swinging arrangements.

• Download: Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

ALISON KERR

FOLK

Skerryvore - Chasing The Sun

Tyree Records TYREE06CD

****

Promoting their new recording with a 14-country, four-continent tour, the seven lads from Tiree are, after nearly a decade, finally releasing an album of which they can be proud. The Rut is a powerful neo-traditional tune, blasted out by determined piping mixed over accordion, fiddle and the band’s recognised trad/rock electric guitar licks, but it sustains its energy with accurate playing and dynamics. Alec Dalglish contributes all of the 11 songs and is a warm, strong vocalist. The album has few surprises, but it’s good, honest, contemporary music – and fun, too.

• Download: Can You Hear Us?

NORMAN CHALMERS

CLASSICAL

Giovanni Gabrieli - Canzoni e Sonate

Tactus TB 550702

****

The Venetian composer and organist Giovanni Gabrieli lived during a time of transition, with Venice’s economic and political power already beginning to decline and the graduation from the Renaissance towards the Baroque.

Gabrieli, as composer and organist in Venice’s two principal venues, one of them St Mark’s, had to accommodate existing and changing tastes, and did so while editing and publishing the works of his composer uncle, Andrea Gabriele.

Although these are late works, published shortly after Gabrieli’s 1615 death, they are very much forward-looking, with each “canzona” building on its predecessor, in complexity and number of instruments employed. This digital reissue of a sterling performance by the Consort Fontegara, performing on period instruments, conveys a strong impression of both the musical foundation provided by the Renaissance and the transition to the Baroque. Highly worthwhile.

• Download: Canzon XV

ALEXANDER BRYCE