Bogus Order would probably need quite a lot by way of introduction, were they not in fact Coldcut, who should need none. Well OK then, just a bit: production duo Matt Black and Jonathan Moore began DJ'ing before your dad was out of short trousers and were pioneers of sampling before he was pinching stuff from the tuck shop. Long established as knob twiddlers, performers, remixers and radio show hosts, at the risk of repeating ourselves they also crafted one of the finest left-field mix tapes of all time for the Journeys By DJ series, a wild and eclectic ride that seamlessly threw together amongst others Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy.
Now we all know each other, on to Zen Brakes Volume 2, a series which is the definition of occasional, the first one being the Ninja Tunes label's debut release waaaayy back in 1990. If that now seems like a product of its time then pleasingly so does this second installment, sound-wise a well-executed bricolage which explores a genre the pair have had such an enormous influence over now rocks to.
What's less in evidence are the hip-hop and jazz stylings which long term acolytes be more familiar with as the pair's stocks-in-trade and also missing are the cut ups which were so revolutionary in their chart heyday, only really surfacing here on the fitful Mad Profferssorisms of The Atlantic Years. The other ten tracks are deep without placing huge demand on the listener; opener Ex Voto is a stylish take on ambient r&b, sunset in its breaks but dawn in the haunted, luxuriant pads, the precision hiss of It's Up 2 a theme for some dreamy pan-European travelogue and the industrial clatter of closer God Save Techno is scuffed and menacing.
As veterans Black and Moore have confessed that the direct influence of this kind of music, from its cultural impact whilst linked to sound systems and protest in the 90's and commercially with the demise of the super clubs which followed them has waned in this century, realities more virtual usurping it. They're also at pains though to let people know they continue to sit impressively at its cutting edge, recently developing a no prior knowledge required free remixing tool called VJamm.
As evidenced here this nous allows them to realise that experimentation for its own sake is often a blank canvas too far these tunes are best when they remain devoutly lost in the Coldcut space, be it on the warmly undulating proto-IDM of Stooge, Soco Mania's enchanted dancehall riddims or the gorgeous cinematic strings of Bulnose Step, unquestionably the collection's stand out moment.
With 30 years of perspective, Moore wryly once described the slow erosion of electronic music's significance by comparing it to his own process: "I learned about Picasso but I didn't appreciate his work at the time because he'd been photocopied so many times that the quality degraded from his beautiful painting to a couple of licks of paint on a shit, made-in-Thailand piece of junk". Coming twenty seven years after its predecessor, this Zen Brakes' isn't a hostage to the fortunes of modern club austerity, neither does it rely on nostalgia. Crisp and clearly defined, it's nobody's cheap imitation.
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