Given that they released their first 12” nearly 20 years ago, it’s somewhat surprising to find that Cellar Door is the Idjut Boys first “proper” album of original material. There have, of course, been other albums – a 2002 collaboration with Quakerman on Glasgow Underground, 2009’s Rune Lindbeak hook-up as Meanderthals (on which they were rumoured to have done most of the work) and a string of typically dubbed-out disco re-edit collections (Phantom Slasher, Noid etc) – but nothing that could be called a definitive Idjuts album.
They have always worked notoriously slowly. For the first decade of their career, Conrad McDonnell and Dan Tyler were happy to release the odd 12” of stoned deep house or left-of-centre disco. Since, their net has widened slightly – see the raw acid house of the Droid series, the cowbells-and-delay madness of “Implant” or the druggy techiness of “The Waterboard” – and their productivity improved, but you still get the impression that much of their creativity has been lost in a cloud of weed smoke and endless DJ gigs around the globe. It’s this latter point that probably explains their slothfulness when it came to producing an album; for all their occasional brilliance as producers, it’s as DJs that they really come into their own. Anyone who has seen them spinning at some illicit backstreet party or dark warehouse rave will attest to their immense skill in this regard.
Cellar Door, then, should perhaps be seen as a neat bonus rather than the culmination of a career that has stuttered between sublime brilliance and aloof eccentricity. Listened to on those terms, it’s perhaps better than you’d expect. In fact, it’s pretty darn good, if not that killer opus that many Idjuts watchers would have hoped for. First of all, it’s a proper album in the old fashioned sense. Clocking in at under 40 minutes – like many of the greatest albums of the vinyl era – it shimmers with Balearic intent. Seemingly inspired by their recent work with Mudd and the Claremont 56 label – see the sun-bright guitars of opener “Rabass” and blissful reprise “Jazz Axe” – it’s noticeably brighter and breezier than much of their work. Another obvious inspiration is veteran Balearic types A Man Called Adam, long time pals and occasional collaborators. Sally Rodgers’ vocals are all over Cellar Door, from the soft focus Ibizan laziness of “Shine”, to the Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac dreaminess of “Going Down”. With the Idjuts usual delay-laden production style to the fore, it’s an uncomplicated, singalong delight.
Another collaborator who makes a strong impression is Norwegian jazz trumpeter and pianist Bugge Wesseltoft. He excels on Kenny Hawkes tribute and previous single “One For Kenny”, delivering a fluid solo that lifts the track from sweet chugger to the album’s standout dancefloor moment. He also makes a memorable appearance on “La Musak”, a typically dubbed-out concoction that brilliantly melds elements of classic dub reggae, piano jazz and head-nodding disco. Interestingly, it’s perhaps these two moments that really make the album. While the A Man Called Adam collaborations are good, they don’t particularly sound like bona fide Idjuts Boys tracks. “One For Kenny” and “La Musak” certainly do.
Cellar Door, then, is an enjoyable and suitably laidback listen. Heady and intoxicating on one hand, sweet and country-tinged on the other, it’s a grown up, radio-friendly set that should please those with a penchant for glistening Balearica. It won’t set dancefloors alight (but that was never the idea), and it’s certainly not some must-have classic, but it is very good. After 20 years of waiting, that was probably the best we could have hoped for.
3. One For Kenny
4. Going Down
5. The Way I Like It
7. Le Wasuk
8. Jazz Axe