It was roughly ten years ago when my friend, his brother and I were driving back to Leeds late one evening. Tired as we were and the conversation having run thin, my friends brother placed a tape in the deck – it was a time before CD players become the norm in cars and the idea of mp3's were nothing but science-fiction. All of a sudden, an ominous sample emanates from the speakers and for the next 70 minutes I'm submerged in a labyrinthine musical voyage, which to this day remains, in my opinion the best mix of all time.
Once home, I asked my friend's brother what the music was, to which he replied, "I think they're called Coldcut. Ask your brother, he lent it to me".
I ran into my house and woke my brother and he continued to educate me on Coldcut and their record label "Ninja Tune". To this day Jonathan More and Matt Black (Coldcut) and the other artists that represent Ninja Tune, haven't failed to make an impact on their increasing audience with their ever impressing production style.
You can imagine how excited I was over the opportunity of seeing them perform live at The Cockpit in November 1999, to promote the release of Let Us Play. To put it simply, I'm not sure anyone expected such a vibrant, eclectic and visually based routine, which ran flawlessly. I can only assume that it left any amateur producer feeling quite inferior.
Seven years pass and I get the pleasure of witnessing another performance at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Saturday 25th Feb 06. Upon entering the venue, there's a large sign notifying everyone to turn on their phone's Bluetooth capability as throughout the night mp3's, images and such things alike were to be signalled out.
The atmosphere within the crowd was building eagerly, while the supporting DJ's subjected us to a great flurry of Reggae, hip-hop and breaks.
Without any indication, the music stops, the cinema sized projection screen comes to life and Coldcut are welcomed on stage to an uproar of loyal fans.
I was sure to expect a set that would mostly showcase their new release "Sound Mirrors", but one aspect of Coldcut that you come to realise with experience, is that it's safe to assume, they never follow convention. Instead, they showered the audience with an amalgamation of old, new and unheard sound pieces in conjunction with a breathtaking sequence of visual wizardry. Personally and I think most of the crowd would agree, that the visuals were just as complex and as exciting as the music.
Many people wouldn't be familiar with Sound Mirrors as they are Let us Play, and so it was a gratifying moment when seminal tracks like More Beats and Pieces crept into their routine along with their prodigious version of The Jungle Book's "I'm the king of the swingers".
The VJ was just as audacious and clever as the music, delivering an abundance of imagery which was perfectly timed, politically aware and comedic at times. A fantastic showcase of the VJ's talents, were when he played with an image of a drummer. By this point, you could feel and hear the drum n bass creeping into the set however, the focus remained on how the visual samples were being dropped, cut and looped in harmony with the music.
What followed was a highly charged 20 minute drum n bass explosion which still echoes inside my head. I think at one point my heart stopped beating but the reverberations from the speakers brought me back to life.
It was a diverse drum n bass routine, ranging from the dirty and complex nature of Squarepusher to the ambience of LTJ Bukem. In between, there was a hilarious "Can- Can" insert, which left the crowd bewildered by Coldcut's ingenuity.
Throughout the night, various guest vocalists/musicians that feature on the new album made cameo appearances such as, Robert Owen, Jon Mathias, John Spencer (from the John Spencer Blue's Explosion), Mike Ladd and Roots Manuva. Each performance was independent from the set and aimed to highlight their contribution to" Sound Mirrors'" assortment of musical genres.
It's difficult to remain objective about a musical collective when you're a fan of their work, but as a friend of mine who owns none of their music, yet accompanied me to the show said, "That was amazing". I agreed.