I’ve always teetered between passing interest and absolute detest for ambient music. At times, I see the appeal. I mean, I’m a fan of jazz, funk, DJ Shadow. There’s a musical thread that is woven between all three and, in many ways, the work of labels like Ninja Tune help to repackage many of the greatest elements of those genres for the Electronic Age. As much as I want it, Charles Mingus ain’t gonna rise from the dead and Miles Davis isn’t becoming any more relevant. It’s the world we live in. There’s still enjoyment in those old recordings and the countless Blue Note reissues, but sometimes you yearn for something new. It’s the lament of the catalog guy. No matter how much you listen to those old recordings, they’re old and they’re only getting older. You want something new. At a time, that was Ninja Tune for me. And the “passing interest” in me comes from, sure I like jazz, funk, world-beat, early hip hop and avant-garde musical compositions, but no one’s making that kinda music anymore. There was a time and place for everything and that time and place has come and gone. The “absolute detest” comes from the nauseating and downright obnoxious self-indulgence that surrounds most ambient music. Because these dudes found an four-bar drum break and looped it for eight minutes and then put some sort of stupid Casio keyboard sound effects on top of it, that makes them musicians? When I hear words like “trip hop,” I imagine hipsters in weird hats sitting around stoned out of their living minds talking about pottery. Someone find me a wall to put my head through. Which brings us to today’s selection, Ninja Tune’s If Ya Can’t Stand Da Beatz, Git Outta Da Kitchen (back when we substituted “z” for “s”).
Released during the height of the trip-hop/downtempo movement, this 1996 compilation from the Ninja Tune label captures the very essence of the Trans-Atlantic low-pro ambient movement. For what it’s worth, outta all of the garbage trip-hop in the marketplace, Ninja Tune and their affiliate Shadow Records represented the very best in the marketplace. And say what you want about the compositions themselves, they make damned good lullabies.
Plus, when I listen to it again, it has all the makings of a Boogiemporium Recommended recording. The breakbeats are there. “Synthetic Substitution,” “When the Levee Breaks,” “Down Here on the Ground,” Roy Ayers. It’s like a hip hop head’s playground. There’s enough that even the distinguished hip hop ear will recognize to keep you interested. But for a sleeping baby, the compositions from artists like Funky Porcini, Hedfunk, Up Bustle and Out, 9Lazy9 and others are built and constructed like any father who’s had too many long nights listening to a baby in the other room screaming like they’re having their skin peeled off their frame. Not only do the songs drag on and on monotonously and lazily, but gone are the three-to-five minute club hits. No, we’re tipping seven or eight minutes on this compilation. It’s like that stoner friend you used to have back in college, not only was he mad annoying, but it took him forever to do anything.
And there’s two discs worth.
It makes it a crazy grab if you see it in stores. If you find this thing used, it’ll probably only tip about $8.00. If so, pick it up. It’s a serious bargain for a father needing some good sleep. And congrats to Ninja Tune for making it 20 years this year. Can’t say that’s it’s all been gold. Much of the label’s stuff is like skim milk: it might be pretty weak, but it keeps forever.
Three Dirties for If Ya Can’t Stand Da Beatz…and a Rufus Rating for content so it’s safe for the kiddies.