Crushing machine beats, multiplied by delay. Melodies that teleport in and out. Vocals treated stretched and disembodied from song. Electro throw-downs where DJ Cheese cuts the record and drums hit like punches. Body blows in body music so hard it`s almost painful. Listening like sparring. Rhythms shared and versioned. Mark Stewart, Fats Comet, Barmy Army, Enemy Within, Strange Parcels, the names might be different but it`s always the one and only, the mighty Tackhead.
ON-U Sound`s previous volume of Adrian Sherwood`s remix and production work focused on the years 1979-1984, and as such chronicled the cross fertilisation of Sherwood`s Reggae and Dub aesthetics with Punk and Post-Punk. “Sherwood At The Controls: Volume 2” moves on to 1985-1990 and collects another music, one defined by three key events. In 1983 Sherwood`s friend and mentor, Prince Far I, was murdered (the crime remains unsolved), prompting the producer to move away from JA`s music and politics. Then in 1984, on a trip to New York to mix Akabu`s “Watch Yourself” which had been signed to Tommy Boy, Sherwood met “The Sugarhill All-Stars”, Keith LeBlanc, Doug Wimbish and Skip McDonald, the rhythm section that powered Hip-Hop`s big crossover hits, and that would form the core of Tackhead, a partnership which over thirty years later is still flexing considerable muscle and still possesses a sound that no one has managed to effectively copy or match. A sound that expanded on the sample-based experiment of the trio`s “No Sell Out” to create a Funk stripped back to basics, with Sherwood on the mix, reverb and effects largely reigned in, save for shards of Skip`s shearing guitar. A Funk pumped up and steroidal. The six minutes of their “Mind At The End Of A Tether” akin to being in a fight, you`ll be checking for bruises. It was this sound, and that of the first African Headcharge record, that sparked a third event, by landing Sherwood the job of producing Ministry`s “Twitch” and generating the subsequent fallout that followed auteur-ing a “noise” that all “Industrial” wanted. A Psychedelic Africa meets an adrenalin OD.
Al Jourgensen`s Ministry were one of the bands associated with, and initially signed to, the Wax Trax! record shop in Chicago. When they moved to the major, Sire, Jourgensen requested that Sherwood man the desk for their next LP, based on the strength of his musical creations for Mark Stewart`s “As The Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade” and “My Life In A Hole In The Ground”. ON-U reshaped Jourgensen`s Synth-Pop into something dense, dark and tribal, opening possibilities, but destroying Ministry`s chances of ever being “the next Depeche Mode”, as Sire`s Seymour Stein had hoped, in the process. Sherwood had worked with Industrial bands before, Einstürzende Neubauten`s “Yü-Gung” being a genre-defining example, but the slab that was “Twitch” brought in fellow Wax Trax!ers KMFDM, from Germany, and Italy`s Pankow. The former mixing Akabu`s street Soul with Art Of Noise`s “Beatbox”, while the latter deconstructed Prince, not unlike the Age Of Chance before them, swapping Pop hooks for the blasts and sparks of a metal grinder. Joining them on Sherwood`s CV in the wake of “Twitch” were The Beatnigs, Cabaret Voltaire, Ché, Flux (Of Pink Indians), Nine Inch Nails, Phaedra, Rinf, and Skinny Puppy. It wasn`t simply ON-U`s foundation / government shaking productions, its heart attack inducing concussion thud beating down the damn door of reality that aligned the collective with the Industrial movement. Sherwood and Tackhead`s political message, carried by triggered samples, stolen from sources all over the globe, voiced the same rallying against mass apathy, corporate sedative / stupidity programs, pointless consumerism, greed, ignorance and avarice. A call for an alternative. A wake up shout.
“Sherwood At The Controls: Volume 2” closes with four unreleased dub tracks that document Adrian`s re-entry into Reggae production following an introduction to Lee Perry by On The Wire`s Steve Barker in 1986. There`s a sublime outtake from Perry`s Dub Syndicate-backed “Time Boom X Devil Dead” (perhaps the definitive cut of this classic, much versioned ON-U rhythm), Bim Sherman`s echoes of Peter Tosh further echoed, an African Headcharge alternate that features a Turkish guide vocal recorded from a Berlin window, and a heavyweight take on Lloyd Parks` “Mafia” complete with gunshots and ricochets, included in tribute to all friends of ON-U who sadly didn`t make it this far. Occupying the whole of side D on the 2 x 12” vinyl package they contrast and serve as a soothing balm to the compilation`s preceding pounding (system).
“ON-U Sound Presents Sherwood At The Controls Volume 2: 1985 – 1990” will be released on June 24th. You can pre-order a copy here and before the album hits the shops you can catch Sherwood live, with Doug Wimbish and drummer Perry Melius, plus DJ support from Andrew Weatherall and the General Echo Soundsystem, at a launch party being held this Friday, June 17th, at Camden`s Jazz Cafe. You can sort out tickets here.