With Ninja Tune swiftly approaching their 20th anniversary as an independent label (no mean feat in today’s climate) it’s reassuring that the imprint is still refusing to compromise on the sonic principles that the Coldcut duo of Matt Black and Jon More founded it on. This much is evident in 1 Inch & ½ Mile, the debut album from South coast duo Grasscut
Consisting of Andrew Phillips, an award winning film composer, and Marcus 0’Dair, double bassist and keyboard player, Grasscut’s music is formed from stockpiled field recordings and recycled 78s and snatches of illicit conversations recorded on mobile phones edited and reworked into the tapestry of their musical compositions.
The outcome is a bewitching combination of twisting psychedelia, stuttering clicks and cuts, ambient soundscapes and downbeat pop. Album opener ‘High Down’ sucks you as soon as the woozy haze of kaleidoscopic noise explodes. From then on you are treated to the bouncing melodic electronica of tracks like ‘Old Machines’ where a fractured drum break contrasts brilliantly with the classical string arrangements. The sound of American property developers in deep discussion that signals the end of the track amply demonstrates Phillips self confessed snooping audio freak role.
This is expanded on further with ‘Muppet’ where Phillips illicit recording of two friends’ gossiping is subjected to some abrasive sonic grafts and swamped in uneasy pop rhythms that descend into self destruction. Even his mother appears on ‘1946’, providing an unassuming monologue about her post war memories against a soft back drop of metallic percussion as a string trio rises and takes over in the mid section
It’s on haunting compositions such as the above and ‘The Tin Man’ where Grasscut truly shine. The latter provides the album high light with the sampled squeak of the Pompidou centre providing a spectral melody upon which layers of piano and strings gently play out before the sound of Count John McCormack’s unique voice signals an onset of crashing percussion.
In the true tradition of Ninja Tune releases, 1 Inch & ½ Mile is best listened to in the comfort of headphones, where you can escape the mundane and fully enjoy the transcendental journey that unfolds.
Reviewer: Tony Poland