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LISTEN: Coldcut Return
The Quietus , October 6th, 2016 09:29

Coldcut return with Roots Manuva in tow; listen below. Photo courtesy of Hayley Louisa Brown

Ninja Tune founders Coldcut are back and above you can listen to the exclusive premiere of their new single, featuring Roots Manuva.

As Matt Black and Jon More are releasing their first new material since 2006's Sound Mirrors, tQ caught up with the pair to talk new music, cultural politics and what they've been up to lately.

Coldcut have been DJing and producing since the late 1980s. They first gained prominence with Solid Steel, a radio show they hosted on the pirate radio station Kiss FM and through the release of early sample-only singles like 'Beats + Pieces' on the duo's own Ahead Of Our Time label. For the release of their forthcoming material, they have now decided to give their original label a relaunch.

From early on in their career, Coldcut aimed to combine hip hop's turntable aesthetic with numerous different strands of music. By scratching and sampling their way through media history, they turned cultural ideals of authorship and authenticity on their heads. Generally speaking, they are believed to be one of the earliest UK groups to release purely sample-based music while being forebears of what would become trip hop. Coldcut's radical approach to sound is epitomised by their groundbreaking 1995 mix album 70 Minutes of Madness that blends breakbeats, hip hop, techno and spoken word samples and is widely held to be one of the defining recordings of its type.

With the founding of Ninja Tune in 1990, Coldcut also started to focus on releasing other people's material and have published albums by the likes of Amon Tobin, Bonobo and Machinedrum, while Ninja Tune's subsidiaries, Actress' Werkdiscs and Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder labels, have also released a selection of excellent music from some of electronic music's finest names. With its releases Ninja Tune has helped define the history and presence of modern electronic dance music, located somewhere in between the three vertexes of hip hop, the avantgarde and techno. For 'Only Heaven', Black and More teamed up with Ninja Tune lyricist Roots Manuva, Brainfeeder's Thundercat on bass and Major Lazer's Switch. Of the recording sessions, More says, “we all got together in this wonderful studio called the Woodshed in Malibu. We wanted to create a productive environment - Lots of friends and Ninja family passing through.”

Defining the whole relaunch project as “a natural progression, a bit of heritage branding, a nod to our roots and subculture,” More goes on to highlight Coldcut's holistic approach, with “hope, hate, struggle, rubbish, messy humans, sadness, redemption and love, all the usual stuff” flowing into their newest efforts in equal measure. But then again, Coldcut being true to themselves, as mavericks, pranksters, cut-up artists - all in one, More holds that, “the theme is... TBC.”

A central aspect of Coldcut's art since the beginning has been politics. From their pirate radio origins to their highly regarded label work, the duo have framed themselves in terms of a resistance to the ever-expanding machinery of commercialisation and commodification. As parts of a subcultural underground they see themselves firmly in the tradition of larger counter-hegemonial cultural struggles, finding an apt description of how they view their own work in the neologism of “dissentertainment.” Naturally, they are quite vocal in their criticism of art's place and price in our capitalist economy.

All this is more than a mere backdrop to the musical output, more than just another styled tangent. Coldcut envision themselves as activists and like to frame all of their work within larger cultural debates. In fact, they are part of a project with RCA students to re-imagine cultural activism: “We asked the students how art can challenge this out of control capitalist system we've created where psychopaths seem to dominate the world,” Black explains,” Banksy is great but what is the next step?” They hope to expand the work on this in the future.

For their newest project, Coldcut have also collaborated with the visual artist Kim Rugg, an RCA alumnus, who will deliver the artwork. Black continues, “We found Kim Rugg's work interesting as a kind of text/image cut-up analog to what we do with sound. She's also working in a space between abstract and figurative, using cutup to table sociopolitical questions.”

Coldcut are once again taking on the game directly, with all the musical and rhetorical weaponry available: “Just comin' to entice things / with raw brute force / drawin' from the infinite,” Roots Manuva spits on 'Only Heaven', which combines sadness and failure with an enticing belief in the possibility of utopia.

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