Mint Royal -- On the Ropes (MCA Records 2001)
by Randy Krbechek
Mint Royale is Neil Claxton and Chris Baker, two U.K. producers whose brassy brand of funk has made its way into Fatboy Slim's record box. With On the Ropes, the duo makes an uptempo debut, with plenty of dance hall beats.
The duo takes familiar beats and melody and reworks them, as on "Take it Easy." Also listen for the propulsive piano intro to "Kenny's Last Dance." Adds Neil, "We like melodies so we ended up using lots of top line stuff, which I guess explains how we can hate brass in theory, but use it on every one of our songs."
Mint Royale formed in 1997, after the pair had been immersed in the U.K.'s indie rock and acid house explosions. Explains Neil, "From about 1995, everything coming out of the U.K. was house music. We got together because we didn't want to do house music."
The band's pairing with former Kenicki vocalist Lauren LaVerne on "Don't Falter" emerged as one of last summer's U.K. dance anthems. The band also watched in bemusement as bits of their tracks have become sports highlight soundtracks in the U.K. Sighs Chris, "Our stuff seems to be perfect for sports."
Neil and Chris continue to work as a live act and as deejays. Explains Neil, "Deejaying is something we stopped when we started living in the studio. Now we take out a box of tricks when we deejay." Adds Chris, "It's nice to deejay again, but with a new box of tricks, it's like revisiting an old friend - whose got a new girlfriend to look at."
The samples and beats on On the Ropes run deep, leading to an eminently danceable CD. Chris explains that the leadoff track, "From Rusholme With Love," is "a bit of an oddity because we had not idea that we would write that sort of track with sitars and Indian things going on, but we will try anything. The trouble is, now we get asked all the time to do these tracks - people think we are Asian B-boys!"
For a tall serving of U.K. dance, imbibe On the Ropes. Chris adds, "We realized we have a bit of a curse," noting that when they work with the band, their remix usually would stick around longer than the group itself. "Work with us and your job will disappear," he jokes.
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-- Randy Krbechek