Wednesday, 4 February 2015
It's an intergenerational meeting of minds, a fusing of two stories, a collision of the (pun intended) tectonic plates of international soundsystem culture. The currents that link post-punk, jungle, dubstep, almighty reggae, techno, Jamaica, Ramsgate and Bristol all come together in a single small DJ booth in London then explode outwards again through truck-sized speakers, through long weeks of studio experimentation, through days and nights without sleep in Tokyo, and are finally condensed on a record that reverberates with the apocalyptic echoes of all that came before and the rumbling threat of a dark future.
The connection was already there. Adrian Sherwood built up a vast catalogue of music through the 1980s as producer to the vast and sprawling dub-industrial-electro collective that was On-U Sound, taking in Dub Syndicate, Tackhead, New Age Steppers and many many more – and as a young boy, Rob Ellis grew up on it. “My older brother had loads of On-U albums,” he says, “and taped them all for me. Listening to all that was definitely my introduction to dub – we didn't have a lot of reggae around where I grew up in Newport [South Wales] – and it meant that when I heard jungle, drum'n'bass, trip hop and stuff later on, it made complete sense to me.”
So when Rob crossed the Severn Bridge and moved to Bristol in his late teens, he was all primed to dive into the scene there. The Subloaded and Dubloaded clubs he co-founded embodied the nascent dubstep scene's raw bodily impact – in his own phrase “If your chest ain't rattlin'... it ain't happenin'” – but as Pinch he became revered as one of the deepest producers in the game, as well as one of the most exploratory, being one of the first to record vocalists (on his Underwater Dancehall album) and one of the earliest dubstep stalwarts to expand outwards into techno and other sounds to keep his work and his Tectonic label fresh as dubstep itself went mainstream.
They met when Rob invited Adrian to play at a Tectonic takeover at Fabric in London. Adrian recalls “I remember thinking quite clearly how impressed I was with him. After I'd done my bit, where I did my best to do a powerful set, he followed that with something very very slow, very moody and very appropriate, completely changed the mood. I stood and watched for 40 minutes, really into it, this was clearly someone on top of his game – then I had to leave, but I thought as he invited me here, I should invite him down to my studio...” The resulting session to cut some dubplates for their respective DJ sets turned quickly into something more serious, discovering that Rob’s electronic loops and beats married up perfectly with the spatial dimension provided by Adrian’s analogue gear.
2 limited edition 12” EPs – Bring Me Weed and Music Killer – followed, but it was being asked to deliver a live show for Sónar Tokyo in April 2013 that really put a rocket under the project. “We decided to have a whole studio on stage” says Adrian, “so that the mix truly is delivered live in a totally unique way that can never quite be done the same again.” This meant a complex technical set-up and no small amount of flying by the seat of their pants, which was naturally exciting and terrifying. “I didn't sleep for two nights beforehand,” remembers Rob, “because I was so nervous – and I didn't sleep for quite a while after because I was so excited.” The result was triumphant, with even master of noise abuse Alec Empire [Atari Teenage Riot] watching agog from the side of the stage and broadcasting to the world what a revelation it had been.
This is an exciting record because it's full of hints of how much more there is to come from this meeting of minds. It's exciting because of the history that pounds and pulses through it. More than that, though, it's exciting because of what it does to you as a listener right here and now in the present; as the sample of Andy Fairley's vocal from the early days of On-U says in 'Precinct of Sound' says: “your head will become a crazy bulbous punch bag of sound”... and what more could you ask?
This Friday night at ten (London UK time) Adrian Sherwood and Pinch will be taking you on a two hour journey into dub and beyond on BBC Radio 6
Finally there is a new Adrian Sherwood compilation released on April 6th (the first in an ongoing series apparently) which looks very interesting
Various Artists: Sherwood At The Controls Volume 1 (1979 – 1984)
01. Medium Medium – Hungry, So Angry (1981)
02. Maximum Joy – Let It Take You There (1982)
03. Nadjma – Some Day My Caliph Will Come (1984) *never issued on CD*
04. Mark Stewart + The Maffia – Learning To Cope With Cowardice (flexi version) (1983) *never issued on CD or Vinyl*
05. The Fall – Middle Mass (1981)
06. Gardening By Moonlight – Strange Clues (1983) *never issued on CD*
07. Shriekback – Mistah Linn He Dead (1984) *never issued on CD*
08. Voice Of Authority ft. Congo Ashanti Roy – Running (Feeling Wild) (1984) *previously unreleased*
09. The Slits – Man Next Door (1979) *never issued on CD*
10. Annie Anxiety (aka Little Annie) – Third Gear Kills (1984)
11. Prince Far I – Nuclear Weapon (1983) *previously unreleased*
12. Singers & Players – Reaching The Bad Man (1981)
13. African Head Charge – In A Trap (1982)
14. Vivien Goldman – Private Armies Dub (1981)
From the fevered imagination of exilestreet at 15:42