VARIOUS ARTISTS You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts (Ninja Tune)


Posted on Apr 28th 2008 09:47 pm

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V/A: You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts

You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts
Ninja Tune 2008
50 Tracks. 224mins35secs

Ninja Tune have been going for an awful long time. Eighteen years in fact. Back at the outset, deep in the mists of time, when we were quite a bit younger than we are now (if we existed at all, that is), the Ninja crew were a bunch of cool fuckers. They rode in on the backs of the likes of DJ Food, Coldcut, Hex and co. Soon after the founding fathers came a second wave consisting of 9 Lazy 9, Funki Porcini, DJ Vadim and The Herbaliser. The early compilations – Funkjazztical Tricknology, Tone Tales From Tomorrow – were a lot of fun and contributed to a playful rebalancing of the rather-too-serious for its own good self-definition of trip-hop by Bristolian headliners (you know who I mean).

Later in the nineties and early noughties, fascinating leftfield luminaries such as Burnt Friedman, Chris Bowden, Roots Manuva and Jaga Jazzist hopped on the bus. But somewhere along the way the main stable seemed to get a bit hackneyed, those waggish ‘you are listening to a stereo recording’-type samples began to bring listeners out in hives and the Ninja Tune share price plummeted.

Had enough of the history lesson? Knew it all already? Fair enough, but all that’s the background to this three CD release which represents something of a lifting up of the proverbial carpet to see what strange mould outgrowths and unlikely furballs have accumulated in the shadows over the years. This is Ninja Tune taking the opportunity to open up the hoover bag and tell an alternate, arguably more interesting history than the one you’ve just read above (sorry!)

So how about The Cinematic Orchestra, DJ Shadow, cLOUDDEAD, Wiley, Amon Tobin, Spank Rock, Mr Scruff, Daedelus, Ty, Diplo, Homelife, Ghislain Poirier, The Bug? Occasionally, the likes of NMS intoning ‘the government have programmed your brain, it’s a brave new world’ begin to pall, but then along comes Mike Ladd to raise the bar again with the aptly titled Blah Blah. Likewise, Cinematic Orchestra’s Rites Of Spring feels too much like a tokenistic ‘oh look we even do free jazz blowouts’, but the downturn is quickly salved by the rather lovely backwards vocals and strings of Max & Harvey’s Thieves. Over a gargantuan, exhausting and probably over-extended fifty tracks and three hours, forty four minutes and thirty five seconds, we get taught a lesson, the gist of which is – Ninja Tune are a lot more varied, less cuddly, harsher and more in-yer-face than you and your wonky memory might have come to believe. On the evidence of this I’m loathe to disagree.


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