From their ’90s singles to the more ambitious projects they tackled in the decades to come, Basement Jaxx were one of the U.K.’s most respected — and enjoyable — progressive house acts. While virtually everything South London production duo Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton released was rooted in house, they mutated several styles (R&B, U.K. garage, ragga, Latin jazz, ambient techno) with an unmatched restlessness. They constantly shuffled the deck, all the while collaborating with an endless array of vocalists both known (including Biz Markie, Siouxsie Sioux, and Yoko Ono) and unknown.
Before they met (at a Thames riverboat party organized by Buxton), Ratcliffe grooved to the deep Latin funk of War and George Duke, while Buxton was turned on to Chicago house. Ratcliffe and Buxton formed Atlantic Jaxx Records in 1994 and were undoubtedly honored to count among fans of their first release none other than DJ legend and Basement Jaxx influence Tony Humphries, who played “Da Underground” from the EP on his New York mix show consistently during 1994-1995. For their second release, the duo recruited vocalist Corrina Josephs, who later became practically a member of the team herself.
The 1995 single “Samba Magic” was picked up for distribution by Virgin, and in time, Basement Jaxx were drawing praise from all corners of the American and British house community as one of the top house production units. The pair spent much of 1996 working on remixes (for the Pet Shop Boys, Roger Sanchez, and Lil’ Mo’ Yin Yang, among others), then released a third Basement Jaxx EP. One track from the EP, “Flylife,” became a Top 20 hit in England after being re-released by Multiply in mid-1997, and the single proved one of the most popular anthems of the year on the worldwide club scene. Late that year, Ratcliffe and Buxton released a compilation of their most crucial Atlantic Jaxx sides.
Kish Kash followed in 2003 and featured the hit “Good Luck,” a collaboration with Lisa Kekaula that became the theme to BBC’s Euro 2004 coverage. That year, the album won the first-ever Best Electronic/Dance Album award at the 47th Grammy Awards. The year 2005 saw the release of the aptly named The Singles collection, as well as a gig headlining the Pyramid Stage at that year’s Glastonbury Festival when Kylie Minogue’s cancer diagnosis forced her to cancel. The following year’s sprawling Crazy Itch Radio featured collaborations with Robyn and Lily Allen. In 2008, Basement Jaxx contributed to the track “Rocking Chair” on Cyndi Lauper’s Bring Ya to the Brink, writing and producing the song; they also released the Planet EP series that year.
On 2009’s Scars, which featured cameos by Yoko Ono, Yo! Majesty, Lightspeed Champion, and Santigold, the duo returned to the leaner approach of the Remedy days, saving their more experimental material for the companion album Zephyr, which arrived late that year. Basement Jaxx vs. Metropole Orkest, which featured versions of the duo’s previously released songs arranged for a 70-piece orchestra, arrived in 2011, along with the score to Joe Cornish’s film Attack the Block, on which they collaborated with Stephen Price.
That year, Buxton and Ratcliffe announced they were working on a new album, and over the next couple of years began previewing tracks from it during their live sets. They premiered the single “Back 2 the Wild” on their YouTube channel in April 2013, with “What a Difference Your Love Makes” and “Unicorn” following soon after. The uplifting Junto — which means “together” in Spanish — featured appearances by Mykki Blanco, DJ Sneak, and Shakka, and arrived in August 2014.