Zen CD - A Ninjatune Retrospective

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  • Over twelve years Ninjatune has developed into one of the essential labels for dance music that dresses to the left, and their continued support of a string of quality acts is underlined in Zen, a retrospective of the whole period. Rather like the Warp collections of four years back Zen falls into three categories - artist tracks, remixes and a DVD. It's when you listen to the artist collection (the other two are reviewed elsewhere) that you get an appreciation for the originality of much of this stuff. The mashed-up sounds of Coldcut appear three times courtesy of the masterful 'Atomic Moog', 'More Beats & Pieces' and 'Timber'. Mr Scruff's cheery trio is also representative, the cheeky sax of 'Get A Move On' contrasting nicely with 'Sweetsmoke', the off-beat houser that gets more and more addictive every time I listen to it. Kid Koala's contribution in a scratching capacity is also honoured with 'Fender Bender' and 'Skanky Panky' capturing the child-like charm of his music. Moving down a gear, The Cinematic Orchestra's 'Channel 1 Suite' is a haunting sound picture that's currently their defining moment, and Funki Porcini's 'Purrfect' is pure bliss, like lying on a bed of feathers. It's big up to Amon Tobin as well, one of Ninja's most experimental artists, and DJ Vadim, whose 'Revolution' will "not be happening between these thighs", as the brilliant rap goes. Also on a rap tip is The Herbaliser's 'The Blend', one of a trio from the 'something wicked' man. You get the picture - this is an essential guide to all things Ninja, well programmed and containing some of the best dance music released in the last decade or so. More power to their elbows!