London DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More were at the vanguard of the British warehouse party scene, and their dissection of popular dance music into “bootleg” records full of samples made them a name on trendsetters’ lips from the start. Yet had these collagists never done anything after pairing the wailing of Ofra Haza to the slinky bass riff of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full” (on a commissioned remix of that number, some of which later ended up on M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume” and is heard in a non-vocal form on What’s That Noise?), they’d still have an enduring place in music history.
When the duo pulled in then-unknown singer Yazz to add celebratory vocals to their dancefloor cut “Doctorin’ the House,” Coldcut hit on a winning formula and became major instigators of the acid house scene. A Top 10 British hit in early 1988 and a classic of its time, the song didn’t make it onto the US version of the duo’s debut album (it had previously been issued Stateside on a different label); the improvement in the US release is the addition of Queen Latifah’s vocals to “Smoke Dis One.” If Coldcut should be noted for anything, it’s their impeccable taste in singers: Junior Reid (“Stop This Crazy Thing”), Lisa Stansfield (“People Hold On”) and Mark E. Smith (“(I’m) In Deep”) of the Fall, who then proceeded to cover the album’s “My Telephone” as “Telephone Thing.” In between the vocal tracks are various “Beats & Pieces,” as one title has it: samples, melodies and grooves that help flesh out What’s That Noise?, a patchy but generally rewarding debut.