Ninja grooves

Coldcut return to form
By TONY WARE  |  May 8, 2006

“MECHORGANIC” CONVERGENCE?: Just listen to the album.

Since debuting as Coldcut in 1987 with the sampledelic Say Kids, What Time Is It? white-label EP, Britain’s self-proclaimed “original dance-floor hooligans” Jonathan More and Matt Black have been all about culture jamming and just plain jamming. So whether philosophy or funk is your game, Coldcut — who had by 1991 set up their own Ninja Tune label to help spread the word and promote like-minded DJs — have always had plenty to offer.

Early on, Coldcut’s beats-and-pieces æsthetic was put to the test on long-form ’80s remixes for Eric B & Rakim, among others, and credited, in pure pirate-radio fashion, to Grandmaster Flash and Double D & Steinski. Since then, the duo’s multimedia mentality has led to philosophical comparisons to Robert Pepperell’s “posthuman condition,” a “ mechorganic” convergence that’s too obscure to get into here when there’s a new Coldcut album, Sound Mirrors (their first in eight years), and a “Ninja Tunes Presents” tour that brings them to the Paradise this Monday, May 15, for a show with opening sets by fellow travelers Blockhead and DJ Signify.

Coldcut have always functioned as a pseudo-corporation, using the Web sites and the audiovisual “scratch” software VJAMM to further their artistic goals and their Ninja Tune label to support radical breakbeaters like Amon Tobin, Mr. Scruff, Hexstatic, and Kid Koala. So they’ve been far from idle. “I’m still doing what I did at six, which was sound-and-light shows where I got robots who walked and flashed and I charged my family a penny to come in,” Black says over the phone from London. “The boxes are just now a bit bigger.”

The people Coldcut have worked with are just as big. Early on, that included Lisa Stansfield, Junior Reid, and Jello Biafra. The new album has guest spots by Roots Manuva, Robert Owens, Saul Williams, Jon Spencer, and Mike Ladd. “I don’t really do so much anymore as just arrange for things to happen,” says Black. “I cut and place people and their skills together to make an übermontage.”

Referring to himself as an “odd, buttoned-up English character,” Black admits he’s spent much of the last eight years working to reclaim common but still highly charged ground with More, his creative partner of 20 years. The result is a collection of the most-pop-friendly and least-chaotic of Coldcut’s sonic collages. The tracks hop from bhangra to two-step to ambient to spoken-word to deep house without losing their poise. Think of Sound Mirrors as a refinement of Coldcut’s æsthetic — an æsthetic that’s much more common today than it was two decades ago.

“We’ve made it up as we’ve gone along,” Black points out. “We never trained to produce or have a label. But as I get older, I look for perspective, for ways to connect things and explore the net of experience which descends deeper and deeper.”

And though Coldcut remain fascinated by technology, they’re more in touch with the human side of music than ever before. Sound Mirrors is a sequence of collaborations that, as Black suggests, have a Zen conceptual bias. Like everything Coldcut, it works on many different levels, and now it’s out there for other DJs to assimilate.

Coldcut + Blockhead + DJ Signify | May 15 | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | 617.931.2000

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