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UK Hip Hop: International
Urban Renewal Programme LP [Ninja Tune]
Various Artists - Urban Renewal Programme
Ninja Tune
This seems to be a compilation, where both Ninja Tune and the US based Chocolate Industries record label have collaborated each contributing several tracks towards this 18 track deep CD. Whoever compiled these tracks has a diverse taste to say the least, but at the same time has chose quality tracks from many of the scenes biggest current hitters. The compilation opens with a pretend radio show name checking all the acts we are about to hear and then drops into Prefuse-73 and their instrumental Radio Attack PT2 Re Cut, originally on Warp Records, it is a mish mash of different styles, and samples from classic soul to accidental bleeps and distortion that comes out the back of a sampler occasionally. For the second track the vibe immediately switches up for the original fast, big word, regardless of beat trendy rapper Aesop Rock and his lyrics of distress on his Train Buffer. Tune! Carual make their first appearance for a spoken Radio announcement Interlude, which is quickly followed by the Diverse and Mos Def collaboration, which contrastingly comes over as very laid back with its gentle and meliflous vocal delivery. Along with the descending progression of string sounds and squelchy bass the song title of Wylin Out is a bit misleading. 

Diverse gets busy over a more minimalistic track than the previous, bung all the bits in the mix and this track, Time comes over on an even more mellow, relaxed and laid back vibe. What with the sounds of the sea and the hypnotic organ, this is one to just close your eyes to and imagine you are somewhere else. In between all the tracks there are nice momentary skits, this one depicts a graff writer getting approached by the 5-oh, all simply done with
the sound of a spray can and I spoken line. Clever. Mr Lif takes his turn next over a more classic Hip Hop beat made up of percussive elements, rather than melodies. Sequences of different stabs, piano and bass combine to form one of the high points of the compilation. 

By the time we get to the Souls Of Mischief we are treated to a tremendous bumper that is equal to their best material, the best track on the comp? For Spark, RJD2 laces up a boomer of a background for the MCs to spark off and for his own track, True Confessions he continues to keep it real with an impressive instrumental groove featuring an orchestral string vibe and plenty of noisy open hi-hats and electric guitar for the intro and bridge etc, which is interspersed with the complete opposite vibe of floaty celestial whistles and sympathetic keys, however I'm feeling the track with the Souls more. Half way through the album Prefuse-73 are back for a tiny interlude skit, before the compilation continues with the lazy big beat sounds of While's Haze-3, and its spacey echoed guitar, Rhodes vibes and ringing cymbals. El-P's contribution, Deadlight features a more experimental beat as is common on this record. I.e. although musical samples are used for the production, they are sequenced in quite an original way which involves plenty of chopping and re-arranging, rather than simply playing a loop. This is kinda nice. DJ Food reverts the CD back over to the instrumental with his Aerosolique Pts1-3 which are a total melange of sounds intricately woven together, occasionally discordant, but overall quite relaxing, even including the industrial sounds and big overloaded bass.

The interludes used between most of the tracks give the record a coherent feel and add continuity to what could otherwise flip from one extreme to another too abruptly. Via Tania adds her own version of an Iterlude, another beatless smooth echo chambered guitar, 43 seconds of pure chill. Miho Hatori who has done her time with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz takes the meandering compilation is a new direction with her soulfully sung dreamy and gentle piano backed Night Light. Although tastefully done, distorted synth sounds are never far away and initially feeling out of place crop up here too. As the song progresses and if you close your eyes and drift into the delicate beauty of the vibe all the elements seem just right. Tortoise apparently usually a rock band hailing from Chicago drop C.T.A. a track that changes vibe too abruptly when placeed after the previous track. Stanley Clarke vibes abound here from the live instrumentation to the jazz fusion feel.

Towards the end of the CD now and Carual returns with an instrumental track with copious amounts of smooth synths, Our Solstice Walk is abstract chill out time. Pen-ultimately there is another meloding little ditty / interlude from Prefuse-73 and to round everything off the compiler has included Themselves, Jel on beats and Dose One with the occasional rapping and their Thisboutthecitytoo track. A rambling track of over 10 minutes with a very long intro with a couple of false starts, which makes up approximately a third of the track. The rest of the track features low chanting and could really be divided into separate tracks. This is one of the experiments that didn't come off too well. 

Apparently this is the first CD in a series of three and if they follow in the same pattern of this with the selection of tunes they too should be an eclectic collection of tracks from across a variety of Hip Hop spawned genres. For me it is a way in to hearing some acts and tracks that I wouldn't normally check for and so is a valuable ear opener to some of the less mainstream music that is available out there. The plastic CD comes in a printed cardboard sleeve which varies the actual CD cover slightly and within the CD you'll see an art book, not sure of the thinking behind this, maybe just an extra thing to make the overall package more complete. Anyway, it is a nice touch and in it there is artwork by Brent Rollins (formerly of Ego-Trip fame), David Kinsey and Graphic Havoc. It is a bit different, not your usual graff, but in that sense it fits with the off the wall disparate nature of this record..
 

Visit Chocolate Industries on the web: www.chocolateindustries.com
Visit Ninja Tune on the web: www.ninjatune.net

Ninja Tune
Intro Early Doors:
1979-1985
False Dawn:
1985-1990
Underground Years:
1990-1995
The Renaissance:
1995- 2000
The Future:
2000 & Beyond
Artists &
Discographies
 
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