Nitin Sawhney's Beyond Skin works on at least two levels. First, it's a plea against racism and war, relating, as Sawhney writes in the liner notes, that one's identity is defined only by oneself – that identity is "beyond skin." Second, the music is an extremely accomplished blend of classical, drum'n'bass, jazz, hip-hop, and Indian elements. The album's political statements are seen most clearly in the samples imbedded in the beginning and ending of most tracks. Dealing with nuclear testing and identity, the samples are effective in setting the tone for the songs. The music is quite lush, featuring among other instruments, tablas, pianos, and cellos to equally beautiful effect. The production brings a crystal-clear polish to nearly every element in the mix, whether it's the passionate, intense vocals of the Rizwan Qawwali Group on "Homelands" or the stunning, impossibly gorgeous voice of Swati Natekar on "Nadia." The entire album is bathed in eclectic touches which never fail to maintain a poetic, accessible sense of charm and wonder. Rarely has electronic music been crafted with as much substance and style as it has on Beyond Skin. Sawhney travels back and forth between genres quite effortlessly. The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Welcome to ZenTV. Since the mid-nineties and the groundbreaking Stealth parties at the Blue Note in Hoxton Square, Ninja has been almost as well respected for its engagement with visuals as it has for its audio. The two came together on this massive retrospective of almost a decade of experimentation, innovation, humour and weirdness. Let’s get the spec out of the way first. The ZenTV DVD has twice the capacity of a normal DVD, containing as it does 35 promo videos from the label, a fifteen minute audiovisual mix and a 30 minutes audio mix from Hexstatic. And as if that wasn’t enough, the DVD has a menu system which means you can watch the videos either in the order we intended, randomly, or chronologically from the oldest to the newest or the newest to the oldest. You can also look up any specific act and check out their videos and album art. Or just leave a gallery of some of Ninja’s finest covers running in the corner of the room as a kind of ambient art installation dahlink… Mwah.
Complete Collection is a six-disc, U.K.-only set celebrating the breadth and depth of Lisa Stansfield's extensive and impressive career. It includes her five studio albums – Affection; Real Love; So Natural; Lisa Stansfield; and Face Up – as well as an exclusive sixth disc, with recordings from a 1992 Wembley date, club mixes (including a great Massive Attack version of "Live Together"), B-sides, and three songs from Stansfield's Blue Zone days. Not enough? Each studio album is augmented with at least two bonus tracks. Complete Collection is definitely the most comprehensive Lisa Stansfield retrospective; it borders on overkill. But since it's only available in the U.K. – and is also quite pricey – the single-disc Biography is perfectly acceptable for the casual Stansfield fan.
Having sold over 13 million albums, Lisa Stansfield can lay claim to being the UK's top female vocalist of the last 15 years. Biography, this 17-track compilation, would certainly back up her argument. Including her breakthrough as featured vocalist on Coldcut's "People Hold On", it also contains her debut proper ("This is the Right Time") and a string of absurdly memorable hits, such as "Change", "All Woman", "Never", "Never Gonna Give You Up" and her first Number One, "All Around the World".