erasing clouds

Live Review: Ninja Zen TV Tour, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, Scotland, 28th February 2004

by anna battista

Zen basically means meditation. Now, as many of you know, meditation helps in emptying your mind from all your thoughts, purifying your spirit and soothing your troubled soul. Yet, tonight there doesn't seem to be too many people who want to meditate in Glasgow's Queen Margaret Union. Indeed, there is a special event here: after London and Manchester, the Ninja Zen TV Tour, a tour with some of the best DJs and musicians on UK record label Ninja Tune, is stopping tonight in Glasgow. No time to meditate then, plenty of time to hear lots of "beats and pieces", to quote Coldcut.

Even though the opening set by Blockhead is quite tamed (mostly instrumental hip hop while mixed images are projected on the big screens behind him), it definitely sets the tone for what is going to come. The real party starts with Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo AKA Skalpel: this DJ duo from Poland introduces the crowd to a very space-y set. When they start mixing, images from the TV series "Thunderbirds" mixed with images of Laika, the first dog to go in space, appear on the screens behind the DJs. While Skalpel scratch their records a VJ (tonight there are two VJs, Lucky Cat and Juxta, mixing videos) operating Coldcut's VJamm video sample software on a computer on one side of the stage, mixes and scratches live audiovisual samples and images taken from '50s or '60s films, projecting them on the big screens.

Kid Koala arrives shortly afterwards and, thanks to a video camera filming him while he scratches, we get to see on the big screens behind him his fingers running on the wheels of steel, quickly mixing one record to the other, among them "Moon River", his mum's favourite song, obviously chopped up and turned into something only faintly resembling the original track. At the end of his set Kid Koala shows us a record he swears he always brings at his gigs. It's Coldcut's "Beats and Pieces" and yes, now it's the time for Coldcut to arrive.

Jonathan More and Matt Black position themselves behind their laptops and mixing desks, behind them the screens light up with more images, among them the Coldcut logo. After a few minutes from starting their set, the sample "This is a journey into sound" blasts from the PA system, projecting us back in time to the late '80s when Coldcut started their career (remember "Say kids (What time is it?)"). Just for the sake of old times, they let us hear, mixed with more recent hits, more samples such as the famous "Pump Up The Volume" and "Im Nin' Alu" by Israeli singer Ofra Haza, fundamental extracts of Coldcut's 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full". Coldcut's set sounds fresh and rejuvenating and it is simply great considering that they've been going for 17 years.

In the sleevenotes to their album Let Us Play, Coldcut wrote "Fuck dance, let's art", well tonight it's more "Let's dance and make situationist art". Sampling, scratching and mixing sounds and videos has never been so good.

For further info about the tour:

Issue 21, March 2004

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