Adrian Sherwood: Survival & Resistance – album review

Adrian Sherwood ”“ Survival & Resistance (ON-U Sound)
CD / LP / DL
Out Now

It’s been 6 years since Adrian Sherwood’s last album, Becoming A Cliché, & finally we have new material from the great man. Even better news is the fact that, as Paul Scott-Bates tells us below, his latest latest album by him is a corker.

I’ve waited months for this album. And months. And months.

I first became aware of Sherwood when I heard Bop Bop by Fats Comet in 1985. Fats were then made up of Skip McDonald (Little Axe), Keith LeBlanc and Doug Wimbush with Adrian, and, a certain Daniel Miller on Synclavier, and, were the ”˜flip’ to the mighty Tackhead. To borrow from Steve Barker of BBC Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire ”“ ”˜Tackhead would take dub/funk on a journey to the unknown and Fats Comet would return you safely with sounds you recognised without ever being heard before.’ And that really starts to explain what Adrian’s label, On-U Sound does for me. It was on the same radio show that I first heard Adrian interviewed and I became an instant follower.

If you’re unfamiliar with his work, there are many artists who aren’t. He’s worked with Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Primal Scream and Reverend & The Makers to name a few. On-U has been the launch-pad for New Aged Steppers, Mark Stewart, Dub Syndicate and Gary Clail. His work with Lee Perry has been some of ”˜Scratch’s best.

Many On-U recordings from the 80s still sound as fresh as the day they were released, probably why, 30 years on, they are still releasing music of quite astonishing quality. They have always had that sharp, clean, precise sound ”“ and Survival & Resistance is no exception. I’m listening to it (again!) as I write this article. The sound of the album is just made for the digital age, with dubs and repeat-echoes all over the place, it’s a delight.

Opener, Balance, features Adamski (long time, no hear?) with some trademark synth work. Track 2 features African Head Charge’s Ghetto Priest on vocals to the haunting Trapped. Sound bytes of American psychologist Dr Timothy Leary grace U.R. Sound, and, so the album contnues. It’s an incredible journey, largely instrumental, but who needs words when the music sounds this good?!

To my knowledge, it’s also the first time that Adrian has used all of his ‘own’ sounds on an album, something that predecessors, Never Trust A Hippy and Becoming a Cliche didn’t. Piano, harp and violin used to great effect embroiled in a swirl of reggae, dub and trance beats. It’s also the first of his albums on On-U, with the others being released through Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld.

What I always find particularly amazing about Adrian is his ability to always come up with something sounding new. Different ways of presenting something old. For instance, dub is hardly a new thing, but when it’s intermingled with a cello, as it is on Effective, it makes a sound so haunting and provocative that you could almost be listening to a ‘new’ instrument. Given the Sherwood recording / mixing / production touch, it becomes an album unparalleled.

With still a third of the year remaining, Survivial & Resistance is already the main contender for my album of the year. Listen to this album through headphones and admire the pure quality of Mr Sherwood.


PS If you’re reading this Adrian, get yourself Oop North, do a session for Mr Barker, and book some live dates in the North West!!

All words Paul Scott-Bates. Paul’s website (where this first appeared) is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.

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