Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Coldcut returns to song

Electronic music will be vital again, Coldcut argues, when another generation discovers and reinterprets it. Until then, the way forward is songs

By Dorian Lynskey  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

"My speciality is predicting the future," declared Matt Black, the louder, more opinionated half of Coldcut. "The world's about to become a lot more dangerous. The choices that we and our children are going to have to make about things like cloning are going to become more and more difficult. People have no idea. They think it's science fiction." He shook his head with the spiny, impatient intelligence of Richard Dawkins. "I'm actually going to get a sample of my DNA taken as soon as possible and frozen so I can be cloned again in 1,500 years time. I quite fancy living for ever."

Further down the sofa, his bandmate Jonathan More vehemently shook his head in a manner that suggested he has heard this idea before and doesn't like it one bit. "A cardboard box at the end of the garden for me," he said.

Like all the best duos, Coldcut is an odd couple. Black, the younger by four years, is a former computer programmer with a degree in biochemistry. In his long black coat, wide-brimmed hat and rakish scarf he would make an excellent, slightly intimidating Doctor Who.

More, an erstwhile art teacher, has the wardrobe of a country gent and a fondness for amiable, rambling metaphors. "Coldcut's a reasonably good vehicle," he pondered. "I might pop out for the odd walk about from time to time, explore the lay-bys, but I don't need to get another vehicle."

British dance music's most dogged survivors met over the counter of the niche retail outlet Reckless Records in London in 1986: More was working there. Black brought in a tape he was making for a competition for London's Capital Radio, and the resulting track, Say Kids, What Time Is It?, became their first single. They were briefly Top of the Pops regulars, manning the samplers behind Yazz and Lisa Stansfield and popularizing sample-based music. Their radical cut-up of Eric B and Rakim's Paid in Full was a landmark remix and their 1996 Journeys By DJ compi-lation remains the standard by which all DJ mix albums are judged. More recently, they have developed audiovisual mixing software such as VJamm. Considering all the mix albums, remixes, soundtracks, collaborations and art projects, it's not surprising that their new album, Sound Mirrors, is only their fourth.

"What's good about being Coldcut is we don't have to be part of the normal music-business sausage machine," Black said. "Album, tour, album, tour, greatest hits, die. This is our 19th year in the business, which, in dance music, is an eternity."

Black and More are installed in a room above the bustling offices of their record label, Ninja Tune, whose walls are papered with posters advertising such signings as Mr. Scruff and Roots Manuva.

Their old nerve center by the river Thames, they glumly reported, now houses luxury maisonettes and a branch of Starbucks. And there have been other sea changes in Coldcut's world in the past few years. When they released their last album, 1997's Let Us Play, Black was prone to saying things like, "It's not that we're brilliant, it's just that everyone else is crap," and comparing the fuss over superstar DJs to honoring "the best hamburger griller in McDonald's." In retrospect, he wasn't far wrong as 1997 was the end of dance music's imperial phase, that period when fantastic new ideas seemed to bloom every week. It has never been as culturally relevant since.

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