Friday, September 25, 2015

Various Artists ‎ – Sherwood At The Controls - Volume 1: 1979 – 1984 (On-U Sound) (English txt version)

Oh yes, I can only be thankful to specialize music magazines of my youth like X Zabave and Ukus Nestašnih (they don't publish them anymore), cause they educate me, inspire me to do this some sort of scribomania, and the most important: they helped me to not become just brainless music consumer, but for really understand it in it's totality. Now I can fully blame those mags and those journalists for my musical elitism. I just don't let the radio play whatever in the background while I do my chores, or even worse if I'm in some public spaces or someone's crib. Clubs and concerts - well we won't even go there.
Now when I shoved my gratitude, now it's the time for our main subject. When I was reading those reviews, they were crediting someone as "producer", or "produce this and that". I was like: "Why? Why this persona is so important?  In what way he made some records masterpieces, or
what is his contribution in bend's  change in their sound better?" Come on, aren't the musicians, the artists themselves capable to write, play and record their own music.A young troubled mind was intrigued.

Wikipedia says: "
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. "production") of an artist's music. A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through audio mixing (recorded music) and audio mastering. Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, contracts and negotiations." Hey, it's a dirty job but someone got to do it.

In modern, pop culture history, fact is that there weren't any musical releases now considered as masterpieces or become part of mainstream culture if there wasn't collaboration between musicians with certain producers. Or even in some cases some of that same musicians didn't become producers themselves  Let me name some of them who shaped pop music: Brian Eno, John Cale, Mark „Flood“ Ellis, Steve Albini, Phil Spector, George Martin, Connie Plank, Trent Reznor and Brian Wilson, even some blokes  named Rick Rubin and Bob Rock. There are also other names, but let's stop right there.


Adrian Sherwood is a producer, owner of On-U Sound label, who has with his unconventional ideas of producing, shifted perimeters of Dub and Reggae and mixed it with other genres and styles.Adrian Sherwood is highly influential and still (hyper)active, all over from 1979th till today. BUT the records he has produced and released didn't make to wider audience, into the mainstream and top lists, so you for sure wouldn't hear them on "your favorite radio station" while you do your chores.

Musically, it started with Prince Buster and other soul records that came from Jamaica. Those records, in those times, were sold on the street corners, directly from dealer's/distributor's cars. In those days that was the only way to get records, cause major record shops wouldn't sell them. And like all young fans he get himself into the "business" by being a records courier for small network between labels and specialize record shops, who would by foot or a car, take the records from one place to another. And in the meantime played some records on private parties and matinees. He couldn't play any instruments, so in his first band Tacklehead he used mixing desk to make sounds and noises, so he was mixologist. And by the time he could save money for the studio, he produced his own first record for Creation Rebel, that soon will be backing band for Prince Far I. Sherwood's friendship with Prince Far I should be crucial for both of them, but specially for Sherwood, cause it build his reputation as a producer, and opened many "doors" for him.

In 1979 he started On-U Sound, where he started to produce for others Reggae artist like Mikey Dread, Bim Sherman, Singers and Players, and many more. And more important all of those artists released on his own label. Because he didn't came from original school of craftsmanship like pioneers Reggae/Ska/Dub producers, his production had some kind, let me say, pretty metallic, with a lot of sounds unfamiliar in Reggae and Dub.
Somewhere in that time two subcultures, separated by racial segregation and legacy of imperialism, and poverty will start to merge into one.All that energy of youth, and DIY activism created whole new independent music "industry", beneath the radar of mainstream pop media. It was the time when everyone who wanted to release a record, he could do it without a lot of money, set up studio from used and cheap gear, and create independent label. Moto was: it doesn't matter what you have, just use it, use it everyday, go create
: Even if he was a friend with people who was in punk, and who played in punk bands, Adrian Sherwood didn't like punk at all. I read somewhere, that he went to concert organized by some of his friends, and expected some "harsh punk noise". But the band was The Jam, and that changed everything. He started to work with
Generation X, The Clash, The Slits, even  John Lydon's PIL.

Just because his unconventional production style  he was invited to produce or remix other bands like:
Lee Scratch Perry-a, Ministry, Primal Scream, Sinead O'Connor, Depech Mode, Einstürzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, KMFDM, Terminal Power Company, Nine Inch Nails, The Slits, Blur, Afrika Bambata, The Fall, New Age Steppers, Air - just to mention few ones. But with his African Head Charge he will create strangest postpunk record ever made: My life In The Hole In The Ground, where he will successfully combine Industrial/Dub/African Ethnic Music. 

He believed in every record he produce, and paid from his own pocket expanses for recordings. He was even put his family house on mortgage. But in the end, even with the quality of releases, low sales and On-U Sounds will cost him a family house. Somewhere he said it was shittiest period of his artistic life, cause he was producing other people's music to pay the dept. I can only imagine him ironically smiled and said something like: "Yeah people said that releases are great, and the On-U has cult following, but theirs child won't go to sleep at his school friends house. I agree with people who say that we were before our time, but it isn't cost effective to come from the future." 

Incredible carrier that lasts for 40 decades now, and with over 100 releases with his name on it, it would be appropriate to release a compilation that will summarized that. But Adrian Sherwood decide to celebrate most creative and productive period.
Sherwood At the Controls is great compilation, and for those who are unfamiliar with his productions, and even those who are still unaware of Dub and similar genres. Of course compilation shows wide range of Sherwood's production work, as his significance and influence. But compilation is not only about Adrian Sherwood and On-U Sound, it's also legacy for the future and the history books of pop culture about certain age.
It was an epoché where musicians wanted to experiment with genres and styles, also to collaborate with each others from different niches, to mix cultures and elements till the moment where we can't distinguish what came from where - where genres and styles don't exist anymore. It was time of explosion of independent music labels, and freedom from big money and their control over creativity.  
Unfortunately it was also age of Thatcherism and Reaganism. Whose war cry was: consume! Whose main principal was materialism and ownership. Whose greatest ethical principal was greed is good! 

Only one tune from the compilation that you going to hear on this review is unreleased track from Prince Far I.
The piece of music in which, I could only try to determine, what is the ethos of On-U Sound. More delay, more delay!!!

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)
04. Mark Stewart + The Maffia – Learning To Cope With Cowardice (Flexi Version) (1983)
05. The Fall – Middle Mass (1981)
06. Gardening By Moonlight – Strange Clues (1983)
07. Shriekback – Mistah Linn He Dead (1984)
08. Voice Of Authority ft. Congo Ashanti Roy – Running (Feeling Wild) (1984)
09. The Slits – Man Next Door (1979)
10. Annie Anxiety (aka Little Annie) – Third Gear Kills (1984)
11. Prince Far I – Nuclear Weapon (1983)
12. Singers & Players – Reaching The Bad Man (1981)
13. African Head Charge – In A Trap (1982)
14. Vivien Goldman – Private Armies Dub (1981)

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