Features Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Bim Sherman, Doug Wimbish, Beatnigs, Keith LeBlanc and more
Following on from last year's Volume 1, here comes another retrospective of tracks produced or remixed by the legendary Adrian Sherwood for his On-U Sound label.
Words like 'pioneering' and 'iconic' get bandied around far too much in dance music circles, but if there's one label that truly deserves such accolades it's On-U Sound. Forming in 1981, in the heat of the post-punk DIY revolution, the label has always stood for groundbreaking music rooted in soundsystem culture and dub, and over the years has embraced styles from straight-up reggae, via punk-funk, industrial and EBM, to jungle and dubstep. And 35 years of innovation are definitely something not to be sneezed at!
This second compilation in the series focuses on the label's output in the late 80s. As the album shows, there were definitely two sides to the On-U coin back then. The first 11 tracks can loosely be summarised as operating in industrial/EBM territory, with smatterings of leftfield disco (see Doug Wimbish's Don't Forget That Beat, presented here in Alternate Dub form), militant electro-rap (The Beatnigs' devastating Television) and even world music (the chanted vox and shuffling, tribal rhythms of The Unknown Cases' Masimbabele 89), not to mention what is definitely the strangest cover version of Prince's Girls & Boys you'll ever hear, courtesy of Pankow. This was the politicised, squat-party underbelly of the late 80s dance music explosion, and as such will provide a welcome nostalgia trip for some, a fascinating history lesson for others, with further cuts coming from the likes of Flux, Ministry, Mark Stewart and Tackhead. The album's final five tracks then show the other side of the coin, with Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Bim Sherman, African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate (twice) serving up some fine dub flavas.
Based on personal taste alone, it's the latter tracks that float this reviewer's boat the most, but that's like reviewing a history of Britain and going, "Well, I like the Tudors best". The fact is the British musical landscape would be quite a different beast had On-U Sound never existed, and this is an excellent showcase for the label's eclectic output. If you don't know, get to know!
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 24 June
Review Score: 9