Saturday, August 15, 2009
You Don't Know (Ninja Cuts) - Various (So Long, Ruins! II)
You Don’t Know (Ninja Tune Compilation)
SCQ Rating: 60%
As silly as it sounds, I purchased this Ninja Tunes compilation because I thought I knew what to expect. Missing all of my old favourites from DJ Food, Cinematic Orchestra and Kid Koala that were lost to ancient hard-drives, You Don’t Know seemed like a great way to reconnect my early admiration for the English label’s classic approach to downtempo and turntablism. What I didn’t expect: this compilation’s entire raison d’etre is to prove old fans like me wrong, hence its title: You Don’t Know (Ninja Cuts). Aha.
As someone who enjoyed Xen Cuts and Ninja Tunes: The Shadow Years, this new triple-disc is far less cohesive, trying to occupy left-field electronica, independent rap, dream-pop and drum-n-bass all at once. So unless you’re a blind superfan of the label itself, You Don’t Know will be pretty difficult to consume as a whole. As open-minded as I consider myself, this collection still forced me to go pillaging; the free-jazz atmospheres of Max & Harvey’s ‘Thieves’, Yppah’s vaguely shoegazey ‘Again With the Subtitles’, and John Mattias’ wintry folk on ‘Evermore’. Among the best highlights are Blockhead’s beautiful ‘Sunday Séance’, Loka’s moody ‘Beginningless’ and Bonobo’s dual tracks. Surprises aside, you can always rely on old favourites to deliver, such as Coldcut (who appears multiple times), Jaga (on the gorgeous ‘Swedenborgske Rom’), Mr. Scruff and Fog.
Beyond reminding me of my teenage years, the frequent rap songs are truly my biggest hindrance with You Don’t Know… although tracks by One Self, Zero Db, King Geedorah, and Roots Manuva are admirably fresh. That said, the real star of this convoluted collection is whoever did the art direction, as these three discs feature covers of awesome distinction; as natural and untouched as disc one has the pyramids cover, disc two advances into the cathedral image of spiritual awakening and disc three is a futurist’s utopia. An aesthetically beautiful, if musically uneven, listening experience but indeed a testament to how the famed triphop label has expanded its repertoire.