Inspired by the paranoid rants of Hempstead, N.Y.'s Francis E. Dec, the innovative DJ duo Coldcut produced “Everything Is Under Control,” the first single from Sound Mirrors (Ninja Tune, 2006). “Dec wrote these dreadful polemics that are insane but also have a certain spine-chilling truth,” Coldcut's Matt Black says, explaining the song's genesis.
With Dec in mind, Black and his Coldcut partner, Jonathan More, wrote lyrics and then invited Jon Spencer (of the Blues Explosion) to sing the chorus. “Jon laid down some guitars and vocals in New York and e-mailed that to us,” Black says. “We diced them up for the chorus. And we recorded [MC] Mike Ladd for the verses after he heard some of the Dec rants. The beats came from when I was in Ibiza using our VJamm software, which we're including a free demo of with the album. Jonathan took Spencer's guitar and processed it so it became a heavy bass-synth noise. You can make an interesting heavy sound out of any sound; it just takes work. If you can process it, process it.”
Black and More have been busy in the five years since their previous album, VJamm (Ninja Tune, 1999). As modern digital production has developed and matured, Coldcut has joined the party. “We are in love with Ableton Live,” Black says. “That is very much a development of some of Coldcut's own ideas on how to make the process of making music as fun, quick and free as possible. Live gives us the ability to dice things up and do real-time time stretching. Besides Pro Tools, we've also used Logic Audio, soft synths from Native Instruments and free VST plug-ins like DubSiren. For beats, we used Live; Propellerhead ReCycle; and our own free plug-in, the Coldcutter. You can put any loop into it, and it will reorder it and play it back with random funk variations.”
Production gurus who go as far back as the days of editing vinyl samples using cassette tape, Coldcut embraces all contemporary possibilities. Sound Mirrors includes not only tons of samples but also live guitar, bass and strings. “We dragged a wide net for samples this time,” Black says. “In our old stuff, it was those rare-groove drum breaks that were our and other producers' main resource. Coldcut has been going for 18 years; music has changed, and even hip-hop and electronics have changed. We intend to retain our pole position. The samples range from the last 50 years — from funk, rock, jazz, country and western to library records that are a new genre of rare groove for sampleheads. Jonathan is a serious vinyl collector; he loves that crate digging.
“We have a phrase,” Black concludes, regarding the role of samples on Sound Mirrors. “‘Today's shit is tomorrow's rare groove.’ We still find grist for our mill and inspiration in all sorts of records. The album has been a labor of love, but we still have our noses firmly pressed against the grindstone.”
To check out Coldcut's free Coldcutter plug-in, visit www.brightonart.co.uk/coldcutter.shtml.