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V/A - Ninja Tune XX Presents King Cannibal: The Way Of The Ninja

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Artist: V/A

Album: Ninja Tune XX Presents King Cannibal: The Way Of The Ninja

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Nov. 30, 2010

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Ninja Tune label, recent label arrival King Cannibal takes on a task that’s either brave or foolhardy: crafting a remix from the label’s extensive catalog. When you’ve got so much to choose from, with artists from Coldcut and DJ Vadim to Prefuse 73 and The Herbaliser, from Roots Manuva and Wagon Christ to Funk Porcini and Amon Tobin -- to mention only a few -- how could a remixer even begin to make choices?

In the case of the brave, foolhardy King Cannibal, you don’t choose -- you use ’em all. Well, not quite all, perhaps, but he gets damn close. Topping out at 74 minutes of music, the 20 tracks here each contain at least a half-dozen songs, and many exceed three times that. With this much going on, looking at the track listings might well lead you to expect a mishmash, like a rough mixtape with all the seams showing. Instead, King Cannibal offers a reminder of why he’s in such demand as a remixer. He’s produced tracks that feel natural, even when the familiar pops up amidst the unfamiliar.

Much of Ninja Tune’s history is imbued with a spirit of playfulness, perhaps most clearly embodied in the label founders’ own project, Coldcut. Importantly, this mix carries that spirit forward. "Big Tunes, Big Hits" and "The Lesson" bring strong beats and clever sound effects from Wagon Christ, Coldcut, London Funk Allstars, DJ Food, Amon Tobin, The Herbaliser, and more. The results are huge fun, while referencing essential points from the label’s releases.

"Welcome to our Ageing Sideshow" begins with a more serious feel, and as the longest track, it feels in a way like a centerpiece. The vocals by Robert Owens, taken from Coldcut’s "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," remain affecting as ever. As the song shifts into tinkling melodies drenched in strings, then back into spoken word, it creeps toward a gentle, yet ominous, conclusion that segues perfectly. The whole affair leaves you admiring the effort that went into the mix.

Elsewhere, the album takes a dive into the modern dubstep era, featuring The Bug, King Cannibal’s own work, Wiley and more. "Bass Bins Through Broken Glass" gets terrific mileage out of combining The Bug with Amon Tobin, while "How About Some Rock & Roll?" get its rock off via Kid Koala, Pop Levi, DJ Shadow and DJ Food. Scratched guitar riffs over a monster beat segue into cut-up drum hits, then a dose of straight-up rock before swerving into hand-claps and synth bleeps.

And on it goes. Ultimately, anyone who’s interested in the Ninja Tune story won’t want to miss out on this monster. King Cannibal tackled a herculean task and unequivocally succeeded in creating an essential memento, as inclusive and imaginative as one could wish for. One of my year’s most enjoyable spins.

By Mason Jones

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