On-U Sound in the (Spotify) Area!

Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound Records specialise in electronic dub-reggae music. They’ve been releasing their dubbed out electo-fusion for several decades now: in fact 2010 is On-U’s 30th anniversary. A core collective of producer Adrian Sherwood, Doug Wimbish (bass), Keith Leblanc (percussion), and Skip McDonald (guitar) have frequently worked together on albums from acts like Tackhead, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Mark Stewart and Gary Clail.

I’ve been a fan of the On-U sound ever since a friend played me a Tackhead album back when I was a student. But many of my favourite On-U records are yet to make it onto Spotify: missing are Tackhead’s brilliant “Tackhead Tape Time”, Gary Clail’s politically charged debut “End Of The Century Party” and Dub Syndicate’s spaced-out “Stoned Immaculate.” However Adrian Sherwood’s recent Crash Slash and Mix albums are both available, as are a few other On-U-related gems. Here’s a selection.

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On-U Sound Crash Slash & Mix – Adrian Sherwood

An excellent primer to the On-U Sound, this recent mix album from Adrian Sherwood showcases their finest acts. Check out Gary Clail’s brilliant “2 Thieves And A Liar” for example, or Barmy Army’s “Privatise The Air.” Both demonstrate a leftist politicising that kicked against Britain’s right-wing rulers of the time: Suck on this, planet of noise bimbos!

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Tackhead – Tackhead Power Inc., Vol. 1

This compilation album features a couple of tracks from Tackhead Tape Time (“Hard Left” and the science fiction dancehall classic “What’s My Mission Now?“) as well as a good selection from their other releases. Spotify also has Adrian Sherwood’s Tackhead Sound Crash Slash And Mix album, a mixed version of over 30 Tackhead tracks including a too-short version of my favourite Tackhead track “Mind At The End Of Its Tether.”

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Mark Stewart – Control Data

This album was actually released by Mute Records, but features the On-U core of Sherwood, Wimbish, and McDonald. Earlier Mark Stewart (and the Maffia) albums were experimental and sometimes chaotic noise; this album is much more in the electro-dub and techno-funk style of On-U.

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Bim Sherman – It Must Be A Dream

Bim Sherman was one of Jamaica’s finest reggae exports. He joined On-U Sound after moving to London in the late 80s and worked on many of the Dub Syndicate releases. This remix album is from much later, and its sound is more traditional reggae (even though it’s a remix version of Sherman’s Indian-influenced Miracle album), but it features mixes from several of the On-U collective so definitely worth including here.

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Adrian Sherwood – Becoming A Cliché

Sherwood’s second solo album was released on Real World Records. It still contains the classic On-U sound though, not surprising since it features many former On-U contributors, including Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bim Sherman, and Mark Stewart.

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Links

  • onu-sound.com – Official On-U Sound Records site. Not sure whether Adrian Sherwood is still involved with On-U, but there’s lots of albums both old and new available to buy.
  • tackhead.com/ – Official Tackhead site.
  • skysaw.org/onu/ – Unofficial On-U Sound site and an excellent resource on all On-U artist’s and releases.
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