The Rubb, Ybor City • 4.15.98

I am really fucking glad that I got to see this show. I’m also really glad that it was held in one of the most beautiful clubs in Florida. This helped enhance everyone’s enjoyment as the ambience of the club aided the Ninja Tunes vibe and audio visual performance.

There was a slick slide show playing constantly throughout the Ninja Tunes set. This was projected on one side of the musicians while on the other sat a large screen showing live and taped videos and graphics mixed live to (sometimes in sync with) the music. The video work rocked and tripped everyone out (especially during Neotropic’s ambient acid set).

Unfortunately, we missed the local DJs who warmed things up. I heard Boomerang was all right, but that Three didn’t spin (which is a shame, since he rocks). Anyway, the Ninja Tunes posse kicked it off with work by The Herbalizer’s Ollie Teeba. He jump-started the evening with some really rockin’ hip hop beats. You will not be hearing this kind of shit from bass trucks on South Beach for a good ten years. What was laid out was a super futuristic slamming hip hop groove. It was incredibly energetic and alive with many sounds and samples. He set the pace for the whole evening with this sound, and went on to play with several of the other DJs, and proved time and again to be KING OF THE HILL when it came to scratching.

Next up was a set by Neotropic, who really, really, really impressed me. I have never heard an ambient artist perform live, and was thrilled with the work displayed here. In fact, Neotropic gets the prize for putting on the best set of the whole damn show. She (and I’m pleased to see some women in electronica) did most of her work on keyboards and samplers that I couldn’t see well. We heard multiple layers of deep electronic ambience, and these layers were full of twists and samples and effects. The video was splicing itself into horizontal levels in sync with Neotropic’s crescendo of layer building. Then things would get chill and silent, and out of nowhere would come this loud, powerful, and deep bowel-shattering bass. These dark and superbass riffs would only rock for a minute before fading away and making room for more sounds and slowed metabolic melodic ambient layers. Beautiful music with a very dark and deep stream.

The Herbalizer and some chubby guy played some soul and old school EPMD/Eric B. and Rakim hip hop for fifteen minutes before DJ Vadim took zee stage.

Vadim started up all four turntables and mixed and scratched the shit out of them, before focusing on just two to really display how tightly he could match a beat up, scratch it, flicker it, and fuck with it. He could catch the record to his left and fade so quickly that he was sampling single beats and creating whole new ones. This kind of madness went on for about five minutes before he chilled out and started to play with some longer songs. These fell into the realm of hip hop, and featured lots of sounds and samples with classical and lounge references. Eventually these songs got a little boring. It almost sounded like he was just letting a side finish before mixing another one to take over, but I think he was actually fucking and enhancing the songs all along. Like when he played Schoolhouse Rock‘s “3 is the Magic Number,” I heard some subtle beats drop in to rock it along. Very smooth and tightly done, although not as enthusiastic as it should’ve been.

The video screen started showing weird images from the cover of Chocolate Weasel’s new album as Vadim mixed in their song “Zen Method.” The very distinctive trippy-hoppy Eighties sound of the beats took over the club. I got a good feeling with this vibe, and the Weasel’s T-Power went on to show off its coat. We got a good dose of hip hop and much more experimental trip hop and beats. Pretty well mixed, but kind of leaving the crowd anxious. All the hip hop started to feel like a tense precursory introduction, and then finally the jungle hit. I was totally digging the shit thrown out as the Weasel emitted some swanky imported jungle, but I can’t say that he did too much work on the turntables to impress me. He continued to mix jungle and trip hop stuff and I missed the crazed serenity that the album offers.

The Funkungfusion show was very smooth to witness. I’m sure that they put on a different show and sound every night and probably get down deeper with more responsive audiences, but the kids at The Rubb were stunned by the display of such tricky trippy playing. Definitely a good show to inspire you to spin some more and look for a new sound. We’re nowhere near the tip of the iceberg with Ninja Tune and their artists, though. We’re gonna see and hear a lot more material and talent coming from these distinctive artists and their swanky label.

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