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Culture Reviews
Coldcut
By Matt Siegel
I came into last night’s Coldcut show at club Ikra expecting to be thoroughly underwhelmed. There’s just something about live electronic/hip hop/etc. music that I’ve never found too appealing, with the odd exception (the all 45’s Cut Chemist/DJ Shadow set I saw in 2000 for example). Frankly, as the trend in electronic music has drifted away from turntables (for those of you too young to know, the turntable – or Gramophone - was a musical device on which PVC discs with inscribed, modulated grooves containing musical information were spun at differing rates of speed under a suspended needle, producing a sound not dissimilar to the voice of an angel. They were popular in the 20th century amongst DJ’s, hipsters and assholes), in favor of laptops and, the bane of my existence, the scratchable CD “turntable,” I too have drifted towards live music that doesn’t seem like something I could do in my bedroom with a laptop and an extra fifteen minutes of free time a day. And indeed, as the first lackluster song appeared to validate my preconceptions, I prepared to settle into a long but entertaining evening of watching the drunken idiots in the VIP section gyrating in perfectly jack-assed a synchronicity to the beats. But as the second song began and the set picked up speed something completely unexpected happened: Coldcut managed to make three white guys behind six laptops rock. I was as shocked as you are.

I suppose that if anyone could do it it would be Coldcut. The veteran duo of Jonathan More and Matt Black have been playing together since the mid 1980’s, providing loyal devotees of their Ninja Tune record label (they founded it together in 1991) with such seminal works of down tempo UK Hip Hop as 1997’s “Let Us Play,” an album which came to help define the genre. These guys are, after all, not amateurs. I have to say though, that it wasn’t the music that particularly impressed me so much as the multi-media display. Utilizing software that synchronized their musical equipment with a large video screen behind them, they were able to pull off the fairly dazzling technological feat of incorporating audio and video into a design that seemed neither gimmicky nor overly distracting from the music. As they “scratched” and programmed beats, characters as diverse as Baloo from “The Jungle Book” and the Wonder Duo of the beloved G-Dub and his pet dog Tony Blair, hiccupped and wiggled across the screen in perfect time. Synchronizing Blair’s statement that “the lunatics have taken over the asylum,” with images of the war in Iraq and an assortment of other lefty clich?s was an interesting, if not particularly original choice.

Coldcut brought along some friends with them for this, their first show in Moscow, including MC Juice Aleem, potentially the first black person anyone in the room had ever seen in person. Aleem’s MCing was certainly competent, if not mind-blowingly original. I have a feeling that his competence was not particularly important though, as the crowd responded to his vocals only if posed with a question intonation and followed by a pause, calling their degree of comprehension into question. I got the impression that if he had tossed out an “all right, where’s all my niggas’ who love Hitler at,” he would have been met with the same roar as when he asked them who the fans of the old school were. Old school? Moscow? I kind of thought that was Visotsky and not Eric B, but what do I know.

If this is the path that electronic music will be taking in the future, a combination of audio and visual that seems to indicate a burgeoning understanding of what the genre is capable of as a holistic art medium, then I think I may just have to put my hipster prejudice aside and stop by the next time Coldcut comes to town. Hell, even if their next show isn’t as good as their last there’s virtually always going to be a VIP section to laugh at, and isn’t laughing at those we consider ourselves better than what going to a show is all about anyway?

14.10.2006


By Sonya Rinkus

Coldcut, Coldcut, Coldcut. When the British electronic duo, Matthew Black and Johnathon More by their Christian names, came to town, people stepped all over each other, leaned on every sketchy contact they knew and sold their sisters to white slavery to get their hands on a comp-ed pair of tickets. It’s a good thing that Ikra had Coldcut for a two-day engagement, or the body count would have been off the charts. I’ll admit that I got swept up in the Colductmania – they’re bigger than Jesus! – without much reflection on the central question: Who is Coldcut? All it took was a few off-the-cuff remarks from music snobs about how Coldcut started Ninja Tune, the label that developed such artists as Aesop Rock and Amon Tobin, names I vaguely remember not hating from my ex-boyfriend’s iTunes collection, and I was groveling with the best of them. I mean, damn – the things I did for the German fetish model-cum-Ikra intern to get on Friday night’s VIP list: braided his hair, assisted his efforts with cute 16-year-olds, stood on him in stilettos.

But you know what? It was worth it. The show was “off the hook,” as it were. It was the first DJ concert I’d been to in the large, third-story concert hall of Ikra (most are held on the snug second floor, which has the feeling of watching your friends spin in their garage) and the first time I’d seen that venue packed to the back. If you didn’t get there on time, you couldn’t see anything and forget about shoving your way through sweat-drenched masses to the front. No problem on this end, though. My crew took in the show from the fourth-floor VIP section with an amazing bird’s-eye view of the turntables and Coldcut’s thinning scalps, which ruined me to ever watching shows like a plebe again.

This is the second review, so I'll be brief on the music. Black and More lurked innocuously behind a row of decks and computers, the stage dominated by MC Juice Aleem. What really fed the crowd’s energy was a cool visual show, sampling music and stock videos in a cut-and-paste technique inspired by Beat writer William Burroughs. My favorite was a remix of ‘70s hit “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” by Joe South, who probably never envisioned that an entire club of Moscow hipsters would be gyrating to his inspirational plea for “people on reservations and out in the ghettos.” Vocals came from Robert Owens, one of house music’s most celebrated male singers, who gave emotional, crying performance onscreen. “If God could sing, he would sound like Robert Owens,” according to ID magazine. Even the most heartless of mercenaries who populated the show were touched by His Gay Anthem.

After the show, Black and More hung back in their super VIP area like normal middle-aged men, eating avocados and zakuski and ignoring congenialities by friendly expat journalists, but the rest of the group was hell-bent to go out and “do Moscow.” Word is Juice and his buddy took a really long time finding groupies to go home with, much to the annoyance of their handlers who wanted to sleep, and one of the sound technicians took home a bottle of vodka and redecorated the hotel room.

26.10.06
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