Sound Mirrors

Studio Album by released in 2005

Sound Mirrors review

Coldcut have assembled an empire of U.K. breakbeat and experimental hip-hop

DJs Jonathan More and Matt Black, aka Coldcut, rose to acclaim in the mid-'80s through production and remix work for a number of modern rock, hip-hop, and dance outfits, including Yaz, Lisa Stansfield, Junior Reid, Blondie, Eric B. & Rakim, and Queen Latifah. While that connection has pegged them as a product of the U.K. acid house and rave scenes, the pair's larger commitment has been to urban breakbeat styles such as hip-hop, ambient dub, and jungle; the three of which have constituted the bulk of their recorded output. More and Black have assembled an empire of U.K. breakbeat and experimental hip-hop through their Ninja Tune/Ntone labels and been a unifying force in underground experimental electronic music through their eclectic radio show, Solid Steel, and club and tour dates. On their first in 9 years and highly anticipated new work Sound Mirrors Coldcut have pushed the boundaries once again. As Jon Spencer (Blues Explosion) says in the first track of the album, everything is under control. Spencer is the first of many on the list of guests for this album, including Roots Manuva, Mike Ladd and Robert Owens to name but a few.

Сombination of great song writing with contemporary production smarts

Everything is Under Control explodes into an ultra modern rock infused hip-hop and electro groove that sets Sound Mirrors into motion. Through one song it’s obvious that with Sound Mirrors, More and Black have a full smorgasbord of innovative sounds to come. Like the infectious dancehall of True Skool, with Roots Manuva on vocals or the menacing and dark trip-hop feel of Sound Mirrors that is bathed with gentle string orchestration. On Mr. Nichols, Coldcut blends swashes of electronic ambience with Saul Williams’ stellar spoken word that places the inner mind into acute introspection. John Matthias delivers soothing vocals paired with the quirky rhythms of Man In a Garage. It’s a tune which gives a big clue as to what Sound Mirrors is all about – the combination of great song writing with contemporary production smarts, the result is an aching, melancholy glitch-blues. Boogieman continues the bogled-out theme established by True Skool but turns it into a stripped down, technoid classic, albeit one featuring the words of legendary Black American poet Amiri Baraka. For up-tempo junkies, This Island Earth pairs delicate piano lines and the throbbing feel of techno/electro pulsation into a catchy pop-styled tune complete with the sexy vocal delivery of Mpho Skeef. With perfect poise, Colours The Soul, with vocal assistance from Dom Spitzer, ends the record with the kind of psychedelic maximalism that shows musicians absolutely confident in themselves and their abilities. It’s a beautiful way to close a beautiful album.

Sound Mirrors moves Coldcut into an entirely new sphere

More and Black have done it again. Sound Mirrors is a classic representation of what Coldcut do best: fusing diverse music into a cohesive mix that is impossible to categorize without using 18 adjectives to get the point across. Coldcut have made the best album of their long and illustrious career. Their production has never sounded better, their ideas have never been more various or interesting, they’ve never had such a great cast of guests and then integrated them into their sound so well. At a time of intense musical conservatism it’s bracing to find a production team who are still willing to push and to keep pushing but who, in doing so, create inspired, accessible music that transcends genre. What is perhaps most extraordinary about Sound Mirrors is that the quality you have come to expect from Coldcut is maintained on each track. This album not only cements Coldcut’s already stellar reputation, but also moves them into an entirely new sphere: drastically more people will hear their music as a result of this album. That they have managed to achieve this while still turning out a superb milestone in underground electronic music is all the more impressive.