They’re back! After a mere nine years away. Heck, is it really 1997 since their last proper album? Yeah, well it is but they haven’t really been away all that time. In some ways Coldcut are an unusual proposition. A band whose most definitive and critically acclaimed work has been their treatment of other people’s music (namely their remix of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid in Full and their seminal Journeys By DJ mix album) are never really going to be defined by the sum of their own original musical output.
Indeed, they’re pursued a whole host of other avenues. They are the bosses of one of Britain’s most enduring and respected indie labels – Ninja Tune – which has consistently over more than a decade been the figurehead of leftfield dance music in the UK, and have introduced the likes of Roots Manuva, Mr Scruff and the Cinematic Orchestra to the masses. They’ve also dabbled in club nights, art installations, software production, film-making and producing radio plays. They also have their own long-running Solid Steel radio show.
So surprise then that they’ve had the time to put out another album of their own. And what’s it like? Well, quite good. Just quite good though. The start of the album promises great things. Man in a Garage (destined to be a downbeat classic) and the up-tempo carnival of True Skool -rapped by Roots Manuva - are two of the greatest things they’ve ever recorded. Just for the Kick is another pleasingly squelchy Coldcut number that parties like it’s ’91 and is all the better for it. Walk a Mile in any other world would be great, if only it wasn’t for the amazing Willie Hightower version (one of my all time favourite songs). And is it just me or is Everything is Under Control (which brings in hip-hop maverick Mike Ladd and Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame) a glorious 00’s homage to EMF’s Unbelievable?
Not all of it is that good though. There are too many anonymous tracks, such as the psychobabble of Saul Williams on Mr Nichols, the uninspired beats of Boogieman, the too-worthy rant of Aid Dealer, and the banal soul of Island Earth.
The end of the album sees another two downbeat gems – Colours the Soul and the title track, which hint where Coldcut’s strengths lie. Well, just some of their many strengths, it would appear. Just don’t expect another album from them anytime soon.
Download: Sound Mirrors
Download: Man in a Garage