Various Artists: "You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts"
NOW, I KNOW what you’re thinking: What on earth is Ninja Cuts and why should we care? The answer is that this triple-disc “monster” compilation from independent record label Ninja Tune, and two of its offshoots, Big Dada and Counter, is a bit too cool for school; so if you don’t know, pretend that you do.
This is the fifth compilation of its kind, featuring both old and new tracks from an eclectic mix of artists who collectively blur the boundaries between funk, hip-hop, jazz, folk, drum & bass, ambient and everything in between.
There are a couple of minor disappointments: Fink’s haunting Pretty Little Thing is the album version rather than the stunning Fink Sonar Mix, and the only Blockhead track included, Sunday Séance, is not immediately indicative of their mesmerizing potential which is showcased on tracks such as Insomniac Olympics.
Nevertheless, there are some absolute gems here, including yet-to-be released tracks from Mr Scruff (the delightfully funky Donkey Ride), and Pop Levi (the cheeky track Dita Dimone), as well as three awe-inspiring tracks from The Cinematic Orchestra, who can apparently do no wrong.
This album constantly encourages you to abandon your own music taste and sample something different. Amon Tobin’s Bloodstone had me literally gawping at my iTunes in disbelief at how experimental, new age strings can progress into spellbinding, atmospheric beats.
Amongst the more recognizable artists, such as DJ Shadow and Roots Manuva, there are some admittedly obscure and even intimidating inclusions, notably the chaotic opener Blazin’ by Ghislain Poirier, but then this is the point of such a compilation. You Don’t Know certainly showcases a diverse range of alternative music whose quality cannot be denied. Even if you’re not going to get excited about the otherwise unavailable Epistemology Suite by Diplo, there is plenty to get inspired about. As a whole the compilation is effortlessly sophisticated, as epitomised by the trendy hip-hop track Gadget Funk by The Herbaliser.
This is the sort of album that, if you heard someone else playing it, would immediately provoke undying respect for their music taste and convince you that you never really liked pop anyway.
This may not be the most accessible introduction to Ninja Tune, but if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air and a panoramic snapshot of what your stilted record collection could look like, then this compilation could be just the ticket.
So now you know.