VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ninja Tune XX – 20 Years Of Beats & Pieces (Ninja Tune)


Posted on Sep 22nd 2010 01:08 am

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Various Artists: Ninja Tune XX - 20 Years Of Beats & Pieces

Ninja Tune XX: 20 Years Of Beats And Pieces
Ninja Tune 2010
101 Tracks. 486mins00secs

It is probably not a coincidence that two of the major UK labels to have emerged from the rave era, Warp and Ninja Tune, are celebrating their twentieth anniversary within less than a year, testament that, if for many only a fleeting movement, it proved, for the most dedicated and visionary artists and labels, the most perfect of launchpads. Following last year’s Warp celebrations, it is now the turn of Ninja Tune to reach this milestone and look back upon its defining years.

Founded by Coldcut’s Matt Black and Jon More in 1990, the label rapidly established a solid roster around the likes of DJ Food, Kid Koala, The Herbaliser, DJ Vadim, The Cinematic Orchestra or Amon Tobin. While shaping the post rave electronic landscape, the paths followed by Warp and Ninja Tune rapidly diverged. The former remained close to the blend of acid house, Detroit techno and industrial ethic which had shaped its early years, Ninja Tune opted for a resolutely more eclectic sound, incorporating heavy doses of hip-hop and drum’n’bass into its expanding catalogue. Since, this has extended in many more directions, and the label has spawned a number of sister labels (the now defunct Ntone, which operated between 1997 and 2001, the positively alive and kicking hip-hop centric Big Dada, active since 1997, which housed a Mercury Prize winner with Speech Debelle last year, and the more recent rock-focused Counter Records). For its twentieth anniversary, Ninja Tune have collected an impressive number of exclusive tracks and remixes into a superb limited edition 6-CD box set, which also contains a handful of totally exclusive seven inches. There are also two double CDs available, containing part of the selection from the box set, and a book to complete the package.

The guest list for this set of celebratory releases is nothing short of impressive, encompassing everything and everyone from staple artists (Coldcut, Amon Tobin,  DJ Food, Roots Manuva, Hexstatic, Jaga Jazzist, DJ Vadim, Daedelus, The Herbaliser, Mr Scruff, Bonobo, Wagon Christ, Fink) to more recent addition (Grasscut, Speech Debelle, Eskmo, The Bug, Antipop Consortium, The Death Set) to name just a fraction, and this list is further enriched by the sheer number of remixes from both in-house artists and external contributors. Amongst those can be spotted the likes of Four Tet, Hot Chip, Prefuse 73, 808 State, Autechre, Flying Lotus, Tom Middleton, Rustie, Metronomy, Scuba, Mark Pritchard and Tunng. Instead of opting for some chronological or stylistic order, the compilers went for general trends in moods, loosely arranging titles so the tone of a section never settles for long, creating an interesting ebb and flow of varied beats and sounds, while also alternating between vocal and instrumental tracks. Predictably, there is quite a strong emphasis on hip-hop infused beats and grooves, but this is punctuated by more delicate moments, at times rather soulful (highlights include Emika’s Double Edge, Flying Lotus’s remix of Andreya Triana’s Lost Where I Belong, Bonobo’s Sun Will Rise with Speech Debelle or the truly superb Tomorrow by  Jono McCleery and Post Suite by Floating Points Ensemble), at others lush and electronic (Diplo’s remix of his own Summer’s Gonna Hurt You, Dan Le Sac’s bleepy feast remix of PRDCTV’s Metropolis, Amon Tobin’s haunting Lost & Found), or, more occasionally, pop-tinted (Grasscut’s Blink In The Night or the collaboration between Lou Rhodes and The Cinematic Orchestra on One Good Thing). This seemingly chaotic labyrinth of genres is actually somewhat very representative of how the label has functioned until now, seemingly driven not so much by any master plan as by a true determination to release anything that catches the ear of the Ninja crew.

With such a far-reaching selection both in size and scope, it is virtually impossible to isolate any particular track, and although there are a handful of Ninja classics amongst the selection, it is clear that presenting a simple retrospective was never in the intention of the label with these releases. Instead, Ninja Tune XX, either in its double CD configuration or full box set extent, collects an incredibly vast array of previously unreleased material, some of which having possibly been lying unheard for years, others entirely new and specially commissioned for the event, and spanning, in the case of the box set, over eight hours of music.

Also included in the box set is a hard back version of Stevie Chick’s book Ninja Tune: 20 Years Of Beats And Pieces, a paperback version of which is available to buy separately. The book retraces the history of the label through am impressive collection of photos, promotional material, record covers and memorabilia, lavishly presented and articulated around a series of chapters retracing the rise of the label, the influence of DJs and of Coldcut’s infamous Solid Steel sessions, the birth of Big Dada and how the label has continued to evolve, together with a selection of twenty one classic albums, ranging from Funki Porcini’s Hed Phone Sex (1995), Amon Tobin’s Permutation (1998) and DJ Vadim’s USSR: Life From The Other Side (1999) to cLOUDDEAD’s seminal self-titled album (2001), The Bug’s London Zoo (2008) and Jaga Jazzist’s One-Armed Bandit, released earlier this year, making it a perfect companion to the music on offer.


Ninja Tune | Ninja Tune XX
Box Set: Amazon UK: CD US: CD Boomkat: CD
Ninja Tune XX Vol. 1: Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD Boomkat: CD | DLD iTunes: DLD
Ninja Tune XX Vol. 2: Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD Boomkat: CD iTunes: DLD
Ninja Tune XX Book: Amazon UK: BK US: BK
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One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ninja Tune XX – 20 Years Of Beats & Pieces (Ninja Tune)”

  1. […] single, the particularly haunting and stellar Double Edge was included on the label’s massive twentieth anniversary collection. Following on from two further singles this year, it is now time for Emika to step up and propose […]