On-U Sound/Tectonic – 24th February
Adrian Sherwood’s experimental electronica for On-U-Sound his granted the UK three decades of distinctive deep-fried bass excess, from the downright peculiar dub-funk of the New Age Steppers to heavyweight exemplars Dub Syndicate and African Headcharge. Since teaming up with Tectonic label head and dubstep maestro Rob Ellis, aka Pinch, Sherwood’s sonic nonconformity seems as determined as ever, this second album running the gamut of urban dance music’s darker recesses.
Man vs Sofa is the sound of two crack producers as wilfully uncompromising as one another. At times this leads to confrontational results: ‘Itchy Face’ is as discomfiting as its title suggests – all gabba pound and skittering insectoid effects, while the bleak hardcore beats and dischordant passing tones of ‘Charger’ would alienate the most forgiving of neighbours if blasting from a residential hi-fi. Also ferocious is ‘Gun Law’, but here London/Jamaican MC Taz adds persuasive menace to an overdriven ragga thriller, with powerful results.
Sherwood and Pinch call in other friends, too: Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy adds understated piano, while long time Sherwood collaborator Skip McDonald lends characteristic spidery guitar. It makes Man Vs Sofa a broad album: there’s the moody minimal funk of sub-bass behemoth ‘Roll Call’; heavily delayed keys and depth-charge beats underpinning ghostly speech samples on ‘Unlearn’; and an intriguing disassembling of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, which cracks and warps as if the master tapes were stored too close to naked flame. On the subject of burning studios, there’s a welcome appearance from the Black Ark arsonist himself, Mr Lee Scratch Perry, whose super-cool contribution to ‘Liars’ is a highlight: “God Don’t Love Liars” he sings as a wispy sax drifts across ambient spacewalk jungle. It’s a track, like many here, that’s bears the unmistakable mark of Sherwood and yet is unmistakably now, underscoring how ahead of the game the UK producer has always been.
Live: The Jazz Cafe – 21 April.