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Slice 'n' Dice 

Coldcut reexamines its roots

Wednesday, Apr 26 2006
At the outset of their music career, nearly 20 years ago, Jonathan More and Matt Black — the now-fortysomething Londoners collectively known as Coldcut — were all about mainstream dance-pop, and they were rewarded as such. The pair's 1987 remix of Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full," within which soared the sampled vocals of Israeli singer Ofra Haza, was a worldwide smash; so was their 1989 club track "People Hold On," which launched the career of its plucked-from-obscurity guest singer, Lisa Stansfield. In 1990, More and Black were even handed a "Producers of the Year" trophy at England's annual BPI Awards.

It was that same year, however, that the duo really began to shun convention and push the cut 'n' paste techniques utilized by favorites Double Dee & Steinski into new realms. Their newly formed Ninja Tune label became home to Coldcut's experimental trip-hop and abstract/breakbeat compositions, as well as those of the like-minded DJ Food and Hex. Over the ensuing decade, as Ninja's roster (and hipness quotient) grew to include Kid Koala, DJ Vadim, The Herbaliser, Amon Tobin, and other artists that Coldcut mentored and/or collaborated with, More and Black became known more for their "off the field" projects — numerous U.K. club nights, a weekly pirate radio show, multimedia art installations all over Europe, and their ingenious, proprietary VJamm software (which allows video clips to be mixed and "scratched" live, much in the same way a DJ handles records) — than their own studio efforts, which became increasingly sporadic.

Coldcut's recently released full-length, Sound Mirrors, is just its fourth, and the first since 1997's relatively abstruse Let Us Play. Interestingly, it finds More and Black coming full-circle, embracing supremely accessible, club- and radio-friendly sounds once again. Bollywood-pop banger "True Skool" engages with tabla bounce and English rapper Roots Manuva's dancehall delivery; "Walk a Mile" dives into some delicious deep house textures; and "Everything Is Under Control" sports greasy, Crystal Method-style big-beatness beneath the dueling vocals of howlin' Jon Spencer and rapper Mike Ladd. The album's finest moments occur when the duo marries its conventional and subversive streaks, as with the killer breakbeat and Amiri Baraka vocals that lance the syrupy electro-synth grooves of "Boogieman." That's when Coldcut fans are really rewarded.

About The Author

Michael Alan Goldberg


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