COLDCUT at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (May 12), doors 9 pm. $20. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
According to Coldcut's Jonathan More, within a small chamber in the London offices of Ninja Tune, the hallowed electronic label he co-founded in 91, there currently sit "three massive boxes, at the last count."
In those boxes are the hundred-plus demos per month Ninja Tune receives from beat junkies hoping to be the next Amon Tobin, DJ Food, Bonobo, Mr. Scruff or even DJ Vadim. The question is, will they be heard?
More's answer, arriving via telephone from his London home, could break your heart.
"Not necessarily, but we have a listening assistant who's devoted to that."
Questions about how they select their artists only yield more vagueness.
"Yeah, it's sort of a collective decision. Some people have their favourites, and some of the Ninjas suggest various artists...."
More says label manager Peter Quick takes care of loads of stuff, and a "crew of Ninjas" do a lot of good work as well.
I'm thinking, "Wow, he's really not taking advantage of the opportunity to blame the eight-year gap between Coldcut albums on a bustling label."
Instead, More refers to the Ninja Tune-powered Solid Steel radio show that started in 88, installations the former art teacher made with his Coldcut partner, Matt Black, involvement in BBC plays and remixing for Herbie Hancock as reasons for holding up the new record, which they started to plan four years ago.
Sound Mirrors is now out, and it's a refined rendering of what Coldcut has always done best: sample-infused progressive electronic tracks bound to house breaks, futuristic filters and an impressive list of guest supporters (including Roots Manuva and Fog, who appears on More's favourite track, Whistle And A Prayer).
The question is whether Coldcut doing what they've always done best is enough for listeners eight years later. Electronic production has made some impressive genre-inverting leaps since their last album, and Sound Mirrors comes off a bit stale -- even a bit "triphop/acid jazz" -- at points.
Perhaps the music seems incomplete without all the newfangled toys More and Black have been playing with during their "weighty, fat-ass musical extravagazas" (More's description of Coldcut's shows). This includes Bluetooth, a technology that enables inter-wireless communication.
"If you come to one of our gigs and you switch Bluetooth on on your cellphone, we're experimenting with sending you ringtones and video clips in various bits and pieces," he offers.
Coldcut's innovative sound first broke through in 88 with the Lisa Stansfield single People Hold On. Stansfield does not appear on the new album. More's not too sure what's up with her these days.
"Uh," he chuckles, "well, she was in that Vagina Monologues a while back, and she's occasionally been on the telly -- and I think she lives in Ireland. That's about all I know at the moment."