Various Artists

Xen Cuts

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Commemorating its tenth anniversary in similar fashion to the festivities at Warp during 1999, Ninja Tune Records celebrated with a three-disc compilation that spotlights not necessarily the greatest, but definitely the most overlooked, moments in the label's history. Founded in 1990 by Coldcut's Jonathan More and Matt Black in response to increasing frustration with major labels, Ninja Tune only earned notice after a few years of mediocre sampladelic records. When the enterprise really exploded in 1995, however, it soon spawned an excellent roster of artists from all sorts of beat-oriented camps: trip-hop (Funki Porcini, Up Bustle & Out), drum'n'bass (Amon Tobin, Animals on Wheels), and hip-hop (DJ Vadim, the Herbaliser, Kid Koala), as well as more ambient techno (Irresistible Force, Neotropic) via the Ntone sub-label. Xen Cuts presents almost 50 tracks spread over three hours, and the focus on previously unreleased (or unavailable on compact disc) material makes for a compilation of many pleasant surprises. Remixers provide many of the highlights, including Jimpster (Irresistible Force's "Nepalese Bliss"), Squarepusher (East Flatbush Project's "Tried by 12"), Roots Manuva (Amon Tobin's "Saboteur"), Fourtet (Cinematic Orchestra's "Channel 1 Suite), and John McEntire (the label classic "More Beats & Pieces" by Coldcut). Anyone seeking an overview that hits every high will be disappointed -- there's barely an original single to be found on this entire collection, despite the preponderance of B-sides -- but Ninja Tune exercised such remarkable quality control during the mid to late '90s that it barely shows.

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