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Coldcut interview - Sound Mirrors

Author: Andrez Bergen
Monday, February 27, 2006
"The president of the United States actually is a bozo." So waxes flippant Matt Black. "Dead eyes," intones Black's long-time collaborator Jonathan More in deadpan manner. "That's what I see when I look at George Bush."

Such proffered words of wisdom and other catchy sound bytes come easily to the dual-entity known as Coldcut, the entrepreneurial outfit both Black and More have called home for well nigh 18 years.

Shying away from things politicus, it seems, would be anathema to these gentlemen. Through videos, live performances, art installations, Internet manifestos and CD liner-notes - as well as interviews - they've held a blow-torch to issues like globalization, logging, genetically-modified food, and music copyright, not to mention the benefits of anarchy. They also like to diss Bush occasionally.

But while they may be politically-motivated, outspoken and enlightened artists, they're also human beings.

"It's tough and there'll be some really difficult moments, but just hang in there." So says Black in a few well-chosen words of advice that carry far more weight than the ribbing about George W., but he's not talking about another two years of the Bush Presidency. Instead he's offering some sage advice to this writer - whose six-week-old daughter seems to really dig the new Coldcut release called 'Sound Mirrors'.

Black has two toddlers and More is coping with a 16-year-old daughter, so they're more than qualified to give parental suggestions.

"She's full of the teenage stuff," More muses. "She goes out quite a bit listening to music, and doing all the things I used to do. It's kind'a funny, but it's cool. She's got really good taste actually, very broad; everything from Nina Simone to heavy, hardcore hip hop. She thinks it [the new Coldcut album] is a bit weird..." He laughs. "She likes This Island Earth and Walk A Mile - those are her favorite tunes from the album - but she thinks some of the other ones are a bit strange."

"My boy likes the record," Black pipes up. "He's particularly into Roots Manuva." Which is interesting, because it's the track Roots Manuva contributes vocals on - True Skool, which somehow throws together bubblegum funk with dancehall and an attitude - that my little girl Cocoa likes the most, if her most miniscule reactions (think a restive gurgle or canny arched eyebrow) are anything to take into account. She's got taste. I'd have to agree.

Coldcut's personal history has no doubt helped shaped the audio picture this diverse album takes - starting from 1987, when they slapped together the first successful sample-built record per se ('Say Kids, What Time Is It-' owes as much to Cabaret Voltaire as it does Grandmaster Flash), to their last full-length album Let Us Play (1997).

Along with their critically-hailed label Ninja Tune, the boys are also the authors of one of the most exalted mix CDs in the past decade - 1995's 70 Minutes of Madness in the 'Journeys By DJ' series - which flings together innovative tracks by Richie Hawtin, Photek, Air Liquide, Luke Slater, Bedouin Ascent, Harold Budd, et al, with desperately assured and devastating aplomb. The mix still stands the test of time ten years on.

The new album 'Sound Mirrors' moves away from the more extreme cut-up Coldcut back-catalog typified in 'Timber' or the mixing work on 70 Minutes of Madness. If anything, it's the fact that it's more, well... musical. For a more tangible insight into the origins of this opus you may have to wind the clock back to their work with vocalists Yazz , Lisa Stansfield and Mark E. Smith in the latter half of the '80s. The track 'This Island Earth' - which boasts Mpho Skeef on sultry jazz-house vocals, and just so happens to be one of the album favorites for More's daughter - personifies this further rear-vision reflection.

"It was an experiment in some respects to go back and do some stuff Coldcut had done in the past, like People Hold On," says More with<