Hard to believe as it may be for those who have been following the label since its inception, Ninja Tune is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. There’s obviously been a lot of water under the bridge over the course of that extremely eventful quarter-century, so when it came time to plan a proper celebration, the NT folks must have thought long and hard about choosing the musical talent to make their birthday festivities come alive. And it looks like they came up with some pretty damn decent choices.
There will actually be a whole series of events this fall to celebrate the label’s 25th, including a show in Amsterdam, three in London (with Actress, King Midas Sound vs. Fennesz, and others), and one at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, featuring The Bug, Earth and others. But be on the alert for the November 21 warehouse party in L.A. that boasts Bonobo, Sepalcure and Eamon Harkin of Mister Saturday Night, to name a few. The location? Shhh, it’s a secret! Ticket buyers will only find out where to go the week of the show.
Groundbreaking UK imprint Ninja Tune continue their 25th anniversary celebration with a memorable Essential Mix which aired last week on BBC Radio 1. The two-hour session was helmed by label founders Coldcut (Matt Black and Jonathan More) and rising house sensation Seven Davis, Jr., who released his debut album, Universes, earlier in the year on the label.
“We wanted to represent as many of the current Ninja Tune roster as possible and also throw a couple of classics from the archives into the mix in addition to some influential and inspirational tracks,” said Black and More.
Seven Davis, Jr., whose hour featured exclusive tracks from Steven Julien (a.k.a. Funkineven), Jesse Rose and a remix of his “Sunday Morning” by Karizma (a.k.a. Kaytronik), was stoked at the opportunity to flex his mixing muscles. “I was really honored when Ninja Tune asked me to represent the new generation of artists on the label.”
The two-hour session is available on the BBC iPlayer for a limited time. Get a scoop before it’s gone. Continue Reading
Singer/songwriter/producer Steve Spacek (a.k.a. Steve White) has been innovating during every step of his musical journey. Since the mid-’90s he’s been focused on designing a futuristic, post-everything dance floor sound informed by broken beat, R&B, trip-hop, hip-hop, African highlife and soul. During this time he’s led electronic band Spacek, issued an array of solo releases, collaborated with J.Dilla, Common and Raphael Saadiq, helmed Africa Hitech with Mark Pritchard and issued his Black Pocket project for his brother dBridge’s Exit Records.
On his first solo album in nearly a decade, Modern Streets, released under his Beat Spacek moniker, Spacek realized the soul-drenched, synth-dominated long-player not by working in a home or project studio but by producing songs here and there utilizing apps operating on his mobile devices.
Instead of Instagramming photos of his dinner or tweeting obligatory thank-yous to last night’s crowd for being so awesome, Spacek put his iPad or iPhone to creative use, laying down everything from 8-bit grooves, his whispered and falsetto vocals and sampling his kids and popping what they said onto tracks when situations presented themselves. Modern Streets is an album that finally fulfills technology’s egalitarian promise to make the recording process cheaper, easier and more efficient for artists.
“A lot of my music I hear is in my head — whether a bassline, vocal line or in a lot of cases the whole track,” says Spacek. “So the idea of being able to put those ideas down whilst out and about, in an airport or plane, where them vibes take me was always going to be a no-brainer!”
We talked to Spacek about what prompted him to take the mobile path on Modern Streets, and how the freedom he found will impact his future work.
Beat Spacek’s Modern Streets is out now on Ninja Tune. Continue Reading
Vapor City accurately pinpoints a post-fallout environment powered by quicksilver scurries and reverbs decorating requiems in dub and bass. Like skimming a blimp across a lake, Travis Stewart’s IQ in dynamics and hydraulics gives the bulky and burdened a frothy quality in subzero.
Sustaining junctions in post-dubstep, footwork/juke, and jungle/hardcore, “Infinite Us” is near enough jungle jazz/intelligence from the 90s, and “Don’t 1 2 Lose U” plays at being Zomby, rave chords picking at the brickwork of a mausoleum. Provocative to a point in rigidly setting out chord structures and triggers, Stewart’s highs tunnelling towards daylight, referee face-offs between the restful and the unsettling, skeletal against billowing. “Center You Love” very nearly aims dubstep for the coffee table, where the atmospheric shaping of layers, hazing and fading on the timeout “Vizion”, close eyes in the infinite space between club and headphone while tugging at the throttle.
With a longing glance at Hyperdub-style electro/R&B on “U Still Lie”, any moments of tension have a way of nixing themselves, and predicted dirges – jump-off “Eyesdontlie” one to fix an unflinching gaze – end up wearing a daisy chain in a world, despite so many signposts, that’s easy to get lost in. When it comes to the continuity of Room(s), the ubiquitous pitched down vocal saps some of the excitement, and similar still, for all its undeniable cutting edge, somehow it doesn’t quite feel it’s doing enough to pull away from its peers.
File under: Sepalcure, Burial, Benton
Simon Green, the one-man musical force behind Bonobo, broke out in a big way with his 2010 downtempo masterpiece Black Sands, an acclaimed album whose impact was unexpected but much deserved. Nearly four years later, Green, a Brit who now calls Brooklyn home, has turned heads once again with The North Borders, an album that finds him exploring darker, glitchier beats and collaborating with the likes of Erykah Badu and an array of rising talents.
Before setting off on his world tour supporting the new release, we caught up with Green on a rooftop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and asked him to talk about the creative path he traveled on in order to go from Black Sands to The North Borders.
Athletic electro funk pogo-ers Andy Harber and Richard Roberts pull up a neon-coloured legwarmer with utterly groovy avant guardianship high-fiving the right side of plastic. Wondrously-tipped and making deceptive its united variations in tempo, it’s as if Letherette have made their way out the other side of a chillwave fog and sound thrilled at new discoveries seen in sharp focus.
Putting boogie in the beats scene and swapping its dark glasses for oversized star-shaped specs, the cool vibrates from kitsch touches and Gallic nods connecting the boldly retro and forward-thinking. Doing Justice on “D&T” with its shaggy guitar solo, nu-disco jitterbug “Restless” with Letherette hyping their stock drowsy stabs, and glamorous disco-glitch “Cold Clam” treading water to get to the object of its affection, turn the dance floor into one big post-gym, locker room frolic. Just as good a head-nodder, “I Always Wanted You Back” is a soaring hip-hop hug paving streets with gold; given the overriding energy, there’s no harm in taking a reflective breather and wringing out the sweatband now and again.
When the album gets its head down, “Gas Stations and Restaurants” is a big drop-off in vibrancy; a muggy soul comedown that typically slickens and perks up. The detours are maturely landscaped, still keeping the pervading glisten aglow, even if “Hard Martha” and “Say the Sun” sound comparatively down and out of breath on one of the year’s freshest sounding albums.
File under: Justice, Burns, Daft Punk