Friday, February 17, 2006

A:xus' Soundtrack for Life

It's always surprising when an album as diverse as A:xus' Soundtrack For Life hails from Canada, land of gazillion-member-bands-that-could've-done-fine-with-two-people bands. Our country's not particularly known for musical diversity; even with its critical acclaim, the glut of new Canadian bands all pretty much sound the same. This was particularly so when Soundtrack for Life came out half a decade back.

While Soundtrack for Life comfortable sits within one genre (light electronica), A:xus (nee Austin Bascom of Toronto) explores the four corners of said genre, and delivers up a surprisingly mature debut the likes of which our country ain't seen in awhile. It's all here - dancefloor jazz, breaks, deep house, electro - served up in your quintessential coffee table lounge format. Soundtrack for Life can be pedestrian as electronic music, but taken as pop music, it's well-rounded and thought-out, much more so than usual rough-hewn debuts.

Bascom really hit the nail on the head with the lead single, "Callin' U," a cover of Jevetta Steele's track on the Baghdad Cafe soundtrack. Instead of the soul torcher that the original was, Bascom updates it to a subtle jazzy samba number, and Namoi N'Sembi supplies amongst the best vocals of this sort, within Canada and without. The other single, his deep house cover of "When I Fall in Love," was the huge hit, the UK crowd apparently never tiring of Esthero, who does a much better job on this track (and on her other guest appearances with Ian Pooley and DJ Krush) than on her own material.

The rest of the album is thoroughly pleasant, the only stinker being the cheesy "You Make Me Feel Like (Peace, Love and Happiness)," which plays out like a Hallmark card. This is thoughtful Sunday brunch stuff, undemanding yet deserving of attention. It still feels odd that our generally suburban country can produce something this uniquely urban, so maybe it's the context that makes Soundtrack for Life so enjoyable, but either way, it is.

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