Each of the 30 tracks on Ninja Tune’s two-disk sampler Funkungfusion adds another facet of complexity to this portrait of a label. Yet so varied in styles and approaches are these electronic songs, that the album poses a challenge to the reviewer and listener alike. Indeed, one can see through Funkungfusion‘s myriad musical forms an electronic vitality that is so often missing from beats designed solely for the dance floor.
Highlights include Chocolate Weasel’s retro-breakdance groove, “Music for Body Lockers.” A straight-ahead sense of mechanism pervades their bass-heavy beats — you could easily bust into robotic dancing from its rhythm. On the other hand, other songs, such as Amon Tobin’s “Melody Infringement,” depend heavily on swing-era sampling, and bring forth a type of jazziness that simultaneously sounds recycled and wholly novel.
Other Ninja Tune artists position themselves in the turntablist camp, using funky beats and heavy scratching to accentuate the oft-forgotten DJ’s role in hip-hop. Most exemplative of this style is the Herbalizer cut, “It’s Just for You.” In addition, Funkungfusion offers more free-form (but still groove-oriented) music from artists such as Mr. Scruff, Clifford Gilberto, and Neotropic — all of whom rely more heavily on ambiance and accompanying sound rather than heavy beats.
Funkungfusion is highly eclectic and varied, so one track doesn’t always flow to the next. Yet the music of these producers and DJ’s shows some true innovation in the world of beats. Ninja Tune, 1751 Richardson, Suite 6109, Montreal, Quebec H3K 1G6, CANADA; http://www.obsolete.com/pipe/ninja/