n 1990, electronica duo Coldcut (aka Matt Black and Jonathan More)
decided to turn their backs on major labels and, for better or
worse, do it on their own. Twenty years and countless excellent
electro, hip hop and experimental records later (with some
forgotten ones along the way) and we arrive at this collection
commemorating two decades of Ninja Tune, available in various
states of comprehensiveness up to a six-CD and six-7" box set
complete with a written history of the label. Happily, its not so
much a retrospective as a State of the Ninja Nation address,
compiling new tracks and exclusives alongside remixes from the
labels premier league of artists. Quite simply, its an exhaustive,
kaleidoscopic voyage that rewards the patient.
Its difficult to condense such a massive release into a few
paragraphs, but suffice is to say its a mixed bag. Because the
focus remains not on dredging up curios that were best left
un-dredged, there are plenty of current artists featured. Stalwart
Roots Manuva is remixed by art school grump-genius Micachu on Dub
Styles, Toddla T and Diplo feature heavily, and the relentless
entertainment factor of Spank Rock proves that theres more to Ninja
Tune than cold electricity. Actually, digested in one sitting, the
fruits of the label do seem much darker governed by bracing
negativity and visions of urban decay but it's a curiously homely
Thats not to say its without humanity, because on hand to inject
natural pulses and beauty into the mould are the loopy brass band
that accompanies Diplos Newsflash, and the pastoral goodness of
Grasscuts Blink in the Night. Cameo appearances from the Ninja Tune
imprints are also littered throughout, most notable amongst them
being Anti-Pop Consortiums Volcano (here mixed by Four Tet, proving
the guestlist really is brimming with goodness). However, there is
a tellingly slight guest appearance from Mercury Prize winner
Speech Debelle she angrily left the Big Dada imprint when her
album, Speech Therapy, failed to make much commercial impact.
With and without commercial success, Ninja Tune has proved that
fanaticism, enthusiasm and nurture are the core elements to record
label success. These traits are mirrored in the exhaustive nature
of this optionally epic release, a towering testament to the label
itself. Any dips in quality (and there are inevitably some) are
made up for by the intent of the whole, a completists dream and
fitting way to mark two decades in the industry.
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