31 October 2010

what Ninja Tune XX meant, and what Ninja Tune means to me

there was a time when labels meant something, when they were synonymous with a certain aesthetic, roster of artists and calibre of quality and musicianship (and for these reasons, i still love Relativity, SST, 4AD, Wax Trax, Moonshine, Planet Dog etc. etc.); and Ninja Tune was, and still remains, a label you can count on...

Gary Numan is headlining two nights at the El Rey next week. favourites from my 20s have reunited and toured again recently. hell, even the Chemical Brothers are still actively making music and touring. for all the shows we could have gone to but didn't go to, either because we couldn't afford the $ or the energy it would take to attend, there were two shows i was absolutely not going to miss, two shows this near 40-yr old was looking forward to since summer: KRUDER & DORFMEISTER and NINJA TUNE XX.

Set Times at Ninja Tune XX - 30/10/10
musically speaking, in the early 1990s, i was still making my way between the remnants of alt-goth clubs and the burdgeoning Los Angeles rave scene. i was in college, futilely still pursuing a career in the music business, interning the 2-6am shift at radio station MARS-FM. just a few years later, i fell in love with my husband, and all our friends and we were falling in love with Kruder and Dorfmeister, Fila Brazillia, Quango Records, and all things downtempo (yes, thanks largely in part to Jason Bentley, his show Metropolis and KCRW). i think ENIT was still in effect, via Lollapalooza. at about this time, there happened to be an extraordinary UK label which had already been releasing great music for several years, called Ninja Tune.

i think i have loved the Herbaliser and Coldcut and Cinematic Orchestra and DJ Food and DJ Vadim and Mixmaster Morris and all Ninja Tune artists for the simple fact that they've always made my head nod and my ears listen...in that order. most everyone knows the Mr. Scruff song "Get a Move On" that was in the 2005 advert for Lincoln cars. see? i know you remember the song, even if you don't remember the commercial. and NO, it wasn't Moby.

really, one shouldn't need to know much about keyboards, turntables, editing software and samplers to enjoy music. maybe, sometimes, it helps, cos then you see someone get on stage and pull off everything live, like ESKMO did last night...and you're blown away.

i feel lucky to live in L.A., where Ninja Tune XX happened to touch down on one special evening. i think i was worried there would be too much competition in town: 'twas the Saturday of Hallowe'en weekend; Of Montreal was playing at the Palladium; HARD L.A. was up the street near usc (and there was a [an?] usc game on campus, i later learned). i was so happy to see the line was already around the corner, 30 minutes after doors had officially opened. of course, all the people waiting outside meant there were very few people inside to watch the opening acts... we only saw one song of Cut Chemist, who was in a hurry to get down to KCRW's Hallowe'en bash (oh, that was yet another thing going on on the same night). and GHOSTBEARD played a good, solid abstract set upstairs, and man, the sound was awesome.

one of my biggest complaints is when a music-based event fails to make their audio a priority, but NOT Ninja Tune! they made sure the audio was sounding excellent and trouble-free in every way. every piece was in place, with the possible exception of KID KOALA's crossfader fail...which was not truly a fail. that's because he deftly replaced the fader on the spot with true Kid Koala showmanship. He talked us through the process, stopping himself short of describing in geeky detail the part that had malfunctioned, although i would have loved to hear about it, and joking about his hopes that his sponsorship from Rane mixers wasn't dropped...even though the mixer had already lasted for a purported 400 previous shows! what a charming guy!! and THEN, Kid Koala proceeded with the show, enthusiastically standing on top of the monitors as he played the 'only song [his] two year-old daughter likes of [his] entire record collection', kinda like this:

...and many more. Amon Tobin played a gut-rattling dubstep-inspired set, while upstairs, DK and DJ Food brought out an all-Ninja-Tune-and-Big-Dada set, spinning their way through the recorded history of the label. freaking fantastic! unfortunately, :(( we were unable to stay for DJ KENTARO, who i am sure blew minds away with his turntablism and skill!!

the term 'ninja' is so apt in describing the artists working their magic on Ninja Tune's music. we were all really lucky to have been at the Echoplex last night, in the presence of some of our music superheroes! looking through their commemorative book, Ninja Tune: 20 Years of Beats & Pieces (which was painstakingly put together to be released as an accompaniment to the limited edition, and now sold-out, four-CD boxset), one may notice how all the gents have a little more grey in their hair and maybe a little more weight on their bodies, or at least just wedding bands on their fingers.

Panasonic officially announced they were ceasing production of their analogue turntables last week, but they hadn't heard the news at Ninja Tune's birthday party last night. the most incredible thing was to be at a place where the love of music was clearly so apparent and palpable. you could touch it in on the face of every artist; you could hear it in every molecule of the air; and you could see it in every bobbing head, both onstage and off.

BTW a huge thank you to LysWo, JuBla and CaiVe of THIRD SIDE MUSIC and TiJo of TERRORBIRD MEDIA!!!

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