That beautiful period in the mid- to late-'90s, when Ninja Tune could do no wrong, was halcyon indeed. The whole world of beat culture seemed wide open: thick, luscious and positively banging rhythm tracks didn't have to be just for dancing, they didn't have to be stupid and they didn't even have to be that rhythmic. They just had to be good and fresh and dangerous. In the same way that Mo' Wax laid down the law on British hip-hop ephemera, Ninja Tune staked out their own territory to the left of the dial, holding forth a progressive, fractured take on jazzy, sample-heavy funk that wasn't afraid to have a healthy sense of humor. These two double-disc sets are the first for-real retrospective compilations the label has produced (the remix set actually bests the first set, as it provides a much broader overview of the entire scene in and around the label). Though such a willingness to look backward might indicate declining fortunes, Ninja Tune is still quite a vital label, though maybe not as revolutionary as they once were. Fans of the label know what to expect, but for those unfamiliar, if you've ever wondered about what kept adventurous beat manipulators in business while Big Beat dominated the "electronica" headlines, look no further.
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