After several ambitious projects that included 2009's back-to-back albums Scars and Zephyr, the following year's collaboration with Metropole Orkest, and their Attack the Block score, Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton devoted some time to their lives outside of Basement Jaxx. Their break coincided with the EDM boom of the late 2000s and early 2010s, and their return feels a little like a critique of that movement's sounds and attitudes. Unlike Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, which expressed that sentiment by diving into late-'70s and early-'80s styles that ranged from disco to AOR, Junto evokes the heyday of '90s house, a revival that was already gaining traction with new artists as well as the style's originators. Fortunately, Basement Jaxx's return to their roots never feels too self-conscious, even on "Never Say Never," a piece of piano house with the refrain "the music brings me right back." The stark, kinetic single "Unicorn" sounds as fresh and timeless as anything off of Remedy, and at its best, Junto comes off as the missing link between that album's relentless rhythms and Rooty's kaleidoscopic pop. One of the album's tours de force, "What's the News," urges the listener to "let your body be free" in much the same way "Get Me Off" did; "Sneakin' Toronto," which captures the joyous unity of a bustling dancefloor in its jostling beats and synths, is Junto's "Jump and Shout." While that track features Jaxx inspiration DJ Sneak, the album's vocalists are largely obscure, echoing Buxton and Ratcliffe's early days and letting their production take the spotlight. "Something About You" remains a delicately layered pop fantasia despite its massive rhythm section, while "Buffalo" (which features Mykki Blanco) is dark and jagged, bringing the album's brighter songs into even sharper contrast. Junto's vivid, celebratory nature is a big part of what keeps it from being mere revivalism, and its messages of togetherness from its title onward are what make it uniquely Basement Jaxx. "Mermaid of Salinas," one of the tracks that heralded the album's arrival, gleefully mixes Spanish, Latin, and African elements into an irreverent, globe-trotting Carnival. Here and throughout Junto, Ratcliffe and Buxton aren't at all concerned with seeming cool, an approach that delivers standouts like the roller skate jam "Summer Dem," where the lead singer's thick Scottish burr adds to the playful sexiness, and the alien pop of "We Are Not Alone." Even if Junto isn't quite as brilliant as Basement Jaxx's early EPs or nearly flawless first three albums, it doesn't sound irrelevant or like the duo is chasing after past glories either -- instead, it's some of their most exciting music in quite a while.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares