Ninja Tune Turns 10

Xencuts (Ninja Tune) is one of those collections that’s so huge it becomes almost transparent, a backdrop against which everything else we listen to takes place. The Ninja Tune record label has been home to some of the most engaging electronic musicians of the past decade, from the Brazilian-born Amon Tobin to the Russian DJ Vadim; from the label’s sample-mad co-owners (Coldcut, aka Jonathan More and Matt Black) to the jazz-inflected relative newcomers of Cinematic Orchestra; from under-sung talents (Funki Porcini) to burgeoning turntable stars (Kid Koala). All of them, and more, are represented on this compilation — which, typical of the label’s homebrew spirit, comes in more formats than one cares to recount. Suffice to say, the harder-to-find edition includes a “Missed, Flipped & Skipped” EP of rarities by Tobin, Sukia, Squarepusher and others. Even without the rarities, though, the box is essential, as it provides a clear timeline between the second-generation hip-hop that got the label started and the ongoing innovations that kept fans happily guessing over the years. Ninja Tune was founded in 1990 when More and Black achieved major-label burnout — having gained fame for work with Eric B & Rakim, Yazz and Lisa Stansfield — and chose to retreat to the independent, artful, stealth habits of their label’s namesake. Here’s to another ten years.

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