BASEMENT JAXX with UGLY DUCKLING at Kool Haus (1 Jarvis), Wednesday (October 17). $24.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Basement Jaxx have always had a rather tenuous and troubled relationship with the club music scene that created them.
Although they've made some of the most experimental dance tracks on the planet, the Brixton house soundsystem of Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton have never exactly fit in with their contemporaries. The steamrolling grooves and steel pan solos on records like their wildly successful debut, Remedy, and this year's Rooty platter sound closer to the lurching beats of hiphop producers like Neptunes and Timbaland than anything in the house music set. Just check their choice of tour mates -- old-school-sounding L.A. hiphop jokers Ugly Duckling.
Buxton and Ratcliffe make pounding, three-minute house-pop classics in a genre where 10-minute anthems are the norm. They're now touring with a full band and reinterpreting their music from a live Funkadelic-style perspective rather than just cowering in a DJ booth spinning Ron Trent singles.
"We're open to anything," Buxton explains from a tour bus en route to Seattle. "Playing live was just a means of getting people into our music and understanding that we're more than just a dance act. We like to believe that we're doing credible modern music, not some kind of stupid ecstasy music. There's enough of that already.
"We make music in response to those things. The fact that Rooty's so short is in direct response to these very long club records. We looked at what's important, which is what pop music is supposed to do."
At its heart, though, Rooty is a club record, and the tracks themselves were road-tested in a club just to make sure. As Buxton and Ratcliffe created the songs, they'd take acetates and slip them into the mix unannounced during sets at their irregular Rooty parties, closely noting how the audience reacted and then retreating back to the lab with the tapes for further tweaking.
Buxton admits that putting the fate of a track in the balance on the dance floor is an unnerving experience, but a vital one.
"After a while, you begin to lose perspective," Buxton laughs. "You need someone else's opinion. People would look around and wonder what the track was, and we'd be sitting there watching.
"It's a crucial response. We love the club culture we come from, but we're going to criticize it if we really want to be honest and push it forward."