Sideshow: Sideshow
Aus Music

Ninja Tune's Fink (Fin Greenall) conceived of Sideshow as a dance music vehicle as well as a departure from NT's turntable-heavy vibe. The self-titled set, a collection of new and previously-issued vinyl cuts alongside five remixes, has as much if not more to do with dub and bluesy soul than it does techno or house (even song titles like “Philly Soundworks” suggest as much)—not that there's anything wrong with that. The style is established at the outset in “Music For You” where Fender Rhodes, electric guitar, and female vocalizing sculpt languor rather than propulsion. The deep tech-house pulse in “Scary Biscuits” slams assertively while cowbell, handclaps, and a snaking bass line bring a slinky disco-soul feel to “Philly Soundworks.” Apparently inspired by a rendering of “You've Changed” by pianist Keith Jarrett, “You've Changed Dub” surprises with a fiery bass-and-drum attack that starts jazzily before morphing into a deep skank. The dubby treatment of Bhalobashi's “Mike Monday” impresses too.

Sideshow exudes an appealing live feel, as if the album was assembled from loose jams that were recorded unbeknownst to the musicians presiding. But such looseness has a downside. The album's not forceful enough and too often sounds too much like sleek background music. The ultra-tight funk pulse of “Polar Bear Dub” oozes incredible promise, but the song's ultimately a missed opportunity: rather than the track intensifying and building with dramatic tension, it coasts and then fades; likewise, “The Slide” may be elegant minimal house but it's also so chilled it verges on uneventful. This leaves ample room for the remixers to trump the originals, and sure enough My My's Lee Jones gives “Philly Soundworks” an intense house throb that surpasses the original, Mathew Jonson boosts “The Slide” with a 10-minute trance-house makeover, John Tejada brings his customary finesse to a synth-heavy “Scary Biscuits” mix, and Jesse Rose elevates “Philly Soundworks” with an infectious house strut. Tellingly, the remixes are significantly more than mere add-ons.

January 2007