Various Artists

Bluffer's Guide, Vol. 4

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For smaller labels, compilation discs are a way to reveal their mission, the aesthetic that guided them to their artists. The British Ninja Tune label, founded by Coldcut, was launched to release discs by intellectual electronic musicians, but rapidly expanded to include intelligent music of all stripes. The fourth volume of the imprint's Bluffer's Guide series highlights this. Particularly present are some of the label's hip-hop faction, including the Herbaliser, TTC, and DJ Vadim. The most revealing cuts -- at least as far as figuring out what the label is all about -- come with the variations. Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra are an Afro-beat orchestra in the tradition of Fela Kuti. Fog, meanwhile, might be compared to a more acoustic analogue of Boards of Canada's organic tripscapes. There is a similar tonal quality to all of the material through the choice of samples used by the producers. They are decidedly urban, but also hint at more traditional highlife (especially the loop behind the Herbaliser's "Verbal Anime"). Each song on the compilation is dirty somehow -- the pure white canvas of electronic music sullied with intentional crackles and pops. All eight of the disc's tracks (plus the two videos on the disc) are challenging and interesting in their own ways, a testament to the quality of the label.