Record Review by Adam McKibbin
The Coachella Music Festival has gained a reputation for luring out musical recluses and ending lengthy sabbaticals. The timing may be mere coincidence, but in the later spring of 2006, Coldcut will join the ranks of bands who have a public re-unveiling out in the desert after a long time away.
It’s been eight years since we last heard from Coldcut, and that time away has served to further firm up the reputations of Matt Black and Jonathan More, who head up the renowned electronica/dance label Ninja Tune. As curators and innovators, they may be nearly impeccable. As original artists… well, less so. If those eight intervening years never happened, perhaps the spic-and-span Sound Mirrors would make more of an impression, and perhaps preachy electro-trancers like “Walk A Mile” would sound more timely and less like something on a mix tape alongside The KLF and Arrested Development.
The highlight of Sound Mirrors comes from a guest appearance, courtesy of Roots Manuva on the percussive, party-starting “True Skool.” The biggest departure also comes from a guest appearance, courtesy of Jon Spencer and Mike Ladd’s fuzz-distortion rap-rock on “Everything Is Under Control,” which takes some attitude cues from A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” (a.k.a. the Sopranos theme song). In both cases—and really throughout—the guests dominate.
Sound Mirrors begins with the coolly languid “Man in a Garage,” which draws its breath from The Notwist’s Neon Golden—a thread which the closing title track will again pick up. After “Man in a Garage” cedes the floor to Roots Manuva and the roof-raising “True Skool,” Sound Mirrors seems aching with promise and diversity. But then the train comes off the rails, first with the anonymously tweaky “Just For The Kick,” then the aforementioned time capsule “Walk A Mile,” and finally with the unbearably heavy-handed “Mr. Nichols,” an otherwise subtle trip-hop number driven by a spoken-word performance from Saul Williams that—pretentiously sympathetic worldview and all—would get a college freshman snickered right out of any self-respecting writing workshop. Sound Mirrors never fully regains its footing.
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