Legendary record labels usually combine a visionary musical agenda with a visual aethetic that is unmistakable. For two decades, Ninja Tune artists have helped define what electronic music “looks like” via a series of impressive music videos. Here are some of our favorite clips from the past 20 years.
Released by Ninja Tune
Bonobo, also known as DJ and producer Simon Green, is back with the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2009 release Live at Koko with a new record, Black Sands. With already an impressive body of work with the full-lengths Animal Magic, Dial 'M' For Monkey, Days to Come, in addition to countless EPs and single releases (my personal favorite being the Scuba EP), Simon Green has kept busy by growing and innovating beyond his previous work of years past. His compositional technique, rivaling some of the work put out by DJ Shadow (see Endtroducing), labelmates Amon Tobin and Blockhead (see Music By Cavelight), Madlib, and Guillermo Scott-Herren (also known as Prefuse 73) illustrates a nuanced meeting point for the inspired fusing of Green’s varied melodious interests.
Released by Sonata Cantata Records
“You never heard something like this before” goes the first line of Los Angeles-based rapper Kenan Bell’s (that’s pronounced “Ken-en,” not “Keen-en”) informs us on “Fruit and Vegetables” from his debut full-length, Until The Future. It’s quite a statement, a bit of a platitude, and, well, despite Bell and his production team’s best efforts, not entirely true. Bell has a style a little reminiscent of Cadence Weapon or Aceyalone (with whom he’s collaborated), and most apparently, Kanye West's lackadaisical flow and penchant for puns and jokes – though Bell is an overall better and smarter MC. Unfortunately, sometimes he moves from inspiration to near-plagiarism: "Chlo,” for example, opens with chords rather reminiscent of OutKast’s “ATLiens,” and has a hook that literally goes “throw your hands in the air.”
Released by Self-Released
The DJ mix is always a question of identity: Who is the DJ? And what are they trying to prove? Not that they're all so self-conscious, but the mix always asserts something. On The Block is Hot, Pt 2 Blockhead asserted his indvidualism over moody samples from Everlast and Rakim. On Bumps Controller 7 illustrated a knowing reverence for the Golden Age, smooshing De La against Nas and making both sound newly relevant. I've heard James Murphy treat a DJ mix as a sketchbook, Greg Gillis treat it as a urinal, Primo as another excuse to scratch a bunch. I've heard DJ Shadow do pretty much everything a two-armed human can do on a DJ mix. He was clearly proving something.