Healing Father

African Head Charge’s 1990 album Songs Of Praise is on my stereo a lot at the moment. Adrian Sherwood has been re- issuing the AHC albums in sequence and the double vinyl brings together the eight songs from the original vinyl release, the extra six from the CD/cassette release and three further ones, seventeen songs in total. Sherwood and percussionist Bonjo Ivabinghi Noah had turned African Head Charge into a group by 1990, rather than just a Sherwood studio project, and they found a ready crowd at festivals. For Songs Of Praise they pulled together a dizzying array of sounds and influences to make a masterpiece. Using Sherwood’s record collection as a sample library they found various religious vocals- chants, hymns, gospel voices, many from Alan Lomax’s field recordings- and set them to some stunning pieces of music- African drums and percussion, Niyabinghi rhythms and dub basslines. On top of these songs various On U Sound members add further instrumental parts, such as Skip McDonald’s fuzz guitar lines. The result is a genuine brilliant, mystical, psychedelic dub album, an album open to all the possibilities of the world’s music, adventurous,  accessible, weird and trippy and completely absorbing, the deep bass, African rhythms and the voices perfectly complementing each other, suggesting some ritual and celebration that draws in folk from all cultures into an On U tribe.

Healing Father

Isolation Mix 15: Songs The Lord Sabre Taught Us Part Two

Two weeks ago I posted my fourteenth Isolation Mix, The Songs Lord Sabre Taught Us, an hour of music from Andrew Weatherall’s record box, as featured on his radio shows, playlists, interviews and mixes, mixed together seamlessly (vaguely). Today’s mix is a second edition, fifteen songs he played, raved about or sampled, most of them first heard via him (I was listening to Stockholm Monsters before I was a fan of Mr Weatherall, a long lost Factory band who made a bunch of good singles and a fine album called Alma Matter and also the best band to come out of Burnage). It’s a tribute to the man and his record collection that there are so many great records from his back pages to sift through and then sequence into some kind of pleasing order. Rockabilly, dub, Factory, post- punk, krautrock legends, Weller spinning out through the Kosmos…

Cowboys International: The ‘No’ Tune
Sparkle Moore: Skull And Crossbones

The Pistoleers: Bank Robber

The Johnny Burnette Trio: Honey Hush

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze: Dubwise

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Disco Devil

African Head Charge: Dervish Chant

Big Youth: Hotter Fire

Colourbox: Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse

Stockholm Monsters: All At Once

Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit: How Much Are They?

White Williams: Route To Palm

Paul Weller: Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)

A R Kane: A Love From Outer Space

Chris And Cosey: October (Love Song) ‘86

An Audience With…

After last month’s Flightpath Estate Zoom meeting with Hugo Nicolson (Andrew Weatherall’s engineer and co-producer on Screamadelica, One Dove and a host of classic late 80s/ early 90s remixes) another Andrew Weatherall collaborator, David Harrow, offered to spend an evening talking to anyone who was interested in listening. On Wednesday night a group of us listened to David talk at length- he said at one point ‘I warned you I can talk’- about his life, from London in the 80s to LA now, a fascinating account of a life spent in music, at times living in a fairly hand- to- mouth kind of way, trying to make a living from what you love. He talked about the problems encountered when musicians have to decide whose work the music is, who contributed what and who gets credited, whose name goes on the front of the record and whose goes in small letters on the back and how this is a big deal when you’re young and hungry- and the problems those things can cause. He found his way in to music working with Anne Clark and then Jah Wobble. David spent a few years in the second half of the 1980s in West Berlin, asking for his tour pay and passport when a tour he was part of the band for ended in the divided city (an Anne Clark tour I think). He described his life as a ‘full on West Berlin goth’ and then his re- entry into London, first with Wobble, and then as acid house kicked off a visit to Shoom and The Clink and the subsequent change in outlook, mood and dress. In a matter of weeks he went from the long black hair and leather trousers of Berlin to brightly coloured cycling jerseys and caps, and the accompanying changes in drug of choice. David ended up not being invited to be part of Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart band and looking for something else began to work with Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound. He talked in depth about his role at On U Sound, what he learnt from watching Adrian Sherwood and working with him and the combustible mix of characters that made up the On U Sound groups- the On U Sound touring sound system, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Tackhead, Gary Clail (and there was much about Gary and the situation that developed there). David’s role in the On U Sound world was pretty central, playing keyboards (and being shown how to do this ‘properly’ by one of the On U team at one point), songwriting, programming and co- producing.

David and Andrew Weatherall’s paths crossed in London in the early 90s and they worked together at various points. In 1990 David produced the London group Deep Joy, a three piece fired up by the acid house revolution and its possibilities. David’s produced their song Fall which was remixed by Weatherall, a chunky 1990 floor filler with saxophone, a choppy guitar riff, some Italo piano, an example of Weatherall’s expansive widescreen remix style in full effect.

Fall (Let There Be Drums)

Fall (Chunky Vocal)

Andrew said he’d release David’s own music on his label, putting out various Technova releases on Sabres Of Paradise, memorably the Tantra 12″ and Tantric album. They went on to develop the Blood Sugar sound, minimal, deep house/ techno, gritty but seductive music for nights in dark basements. David recalled Andrew telling him in the studio that they could only have four musical elements in a track at any one time and that if they wanted to bring another element in, something else had to be removed from the mix, the sort of detail that when you then go back and listen to Blood Sugar’s Levels double pack or the releases they made together as Deanne Day, illuminates the music and its creation.

There are many parts of the story I can only remember sketchily- I should have taken notes I suppose. David wrote Your Loving Arms for Billie Ray Martin (a worldwide hit thanks to its inclusion on multiple compilations), a song David described as financially ‘the best forty five minutes work I’ve ever done’. He talked about his decisions with humour and occasionally a rueful smile. He played keytar bass for Bjork but then turned down the position doing that on an eighteen month tour. He advised Tackhead singer Bernard Fowler not to take up the position of backing singer for The Rolling Stones (Bernard has sung back up for The Stones worldwide since the 90s and now lives among the super rich in LA). He found another musical life after hearing drum and bass and beginning to make music under the name James Hardway, a jazz/ drum and bass project that brought success around the world. He talked about his devastation at the death of Jamaican singer Bim Sherman in 2000 and his subsequent move to Los Angeles. This track has recently been finished, a song with the late Bim Sherman on vocals, remixed by The Orb, and it hits all the spots you’d expect it to.

David has continued to put music out. Sitting in his studio talking to us he laughed about the amount of technology available now compared to the kit available thirty years ago- a sampler, a drum machine, some records, a keyboard. David continues to make music as Oicho, and with Ghetto Priest, and has just put several dubs recorded during lockdown onto Bandcamp. This one, Main Earth Dub, has an elastic bassline, some distant percussion and then some of those rattling snares and kickdrums, dub techno sounds that aren’t a million miles from the Blood Sugar sound of the mid 90s.

101 Steps (Lockdown 2) is cut from similar cloth, a deep, dubby, experimental drive round a city at night, the echo and stop- start rhythms building the tension.

David talked to us for what ended up being three hours, taking questions and speaking honestly about his life making music since the early 80s. There’s loads more he talked about that I haven’t mentioned not least his time with Psychic TV (a big influence on Andrew Weatherall too), the gentrification of Los Angeles, the club Flying Lotus emerged from and Billie Eilish and her mum, and some I’ve left out, but it was an entertaining and fascinating way to spend a Wednesday night.

Isolation Mix Six

I got this dramatic shot of the sky over the Mersey on Thursday night. One habit I hope I manage to maintain once this is all over, whenever that is, is taking regular walks. You miss so much sitting inside and even the most familiar and mundane places can look different when caught at a particular time. This week’s Isolation Mix is a dubwise and post punk excursion from The Clash, some dubbed out Joy Division covers, Bauhaus, The Slits, Killing Joke remixed by Thrash, a bunch of Andrew Weatherall dub versions and some On U Sound from Dub Syndicate.

The Clash: The Crooked Beat

Steve Mason: Boys Outside (Andrew Weatherall Dub 2)

Jah Division: Dub Will Tear Us Apart

Jah Division: Dub Disorder

Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead

The Slits: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Dub Syndicate: Ravi Shankar Part.1

Sabres Of Paradise: Ysaebud

New Order: Regret (Sabres Slow ‘n’ Lo)

Lark: Can I Colour In Your Hair (Andrew Weatherall Version)

Killing Joke: Requiem (A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea Dub Mix)

Pounding System

Not far to the north of where we live lies the River Mersey. The riverbanks on both sides are walkable and when you cross by the footbridge up near Ashton- on- Mersey golf club there are a maze of paths that wind their way through floodplains and fields, either east to the water park and then Chorlton or west through to Urmston. Much of this land is known as an Ees- Stretford Ees, Chorlton Ees and Sale Ees. Ees is an archaic word meaning a piece of land liable to flood or water meadow. The footpaths cut their way through the Ees, surrounded by trees, hedges and meadows. The M60 and its link roads are all interwoven but are very quiet at the moment. Usually from our back garden you can hear the M60. At the moment you can hear the birds and the occasional rattle of the tramline, a mile in the other direction. Our daily bout of exercise sometimes takes us along the riverbank, especially in the evening when it’s much quieter and social distancing is easier and less fraught, and through these lanes and pathways. As the sun dips out west beyond Irlam and Warrington you can sometimes get to witness a spectacular sunset. This is one of the positive things lockdown is giving us- finding local moments of beauty, even in our fairly unromantic and ordinary parts of south west Manchester, and this is now life in 2020- taking the time under these restrictions to appreciate what’s on your doorstep.

Here is some dub splendour to match the sunset above from Dub Syndicate, a key part of the On U Sound stable. I was going to post the majestic, far out sounds of Ravi Shankar (Pt 1) but it turns out I’ve posted that before, back in 2017. Pounding System was the opening track on their 1982 album The Pounding System. The bass and drums/percussion are so precise but so loose in Sherwood’s hands. The horns seem to rise up from the mixing desk, levitating. Skanking guitar parts pop in and out. Every element in it’s own space and with room to breathe.

Pounding System

Y2K

On U Sound have a long tradition of budget priced label samplers, a series called Pay It All Back, dating back to 1984. In March 2019 they released Volume 7, eighteen tracks from recent years with Adrian Sherwood at the controls including some previously unreleased tracks and some alternate mixes. It’s a fantastic record with heavy dub, roots and reggae vibes from Lee Perry, Roots Manuva, Horace Andy, Denise Sherwood, Mark Stewart, LSK, Congo Natty, African Head Charge, Little Axe and loads more. This one is the one that caught my ear when I was playing it recently.

A’- Live In Dub

Fast, heavy rhythm, crashing noises, strings being stretched and bent, distortion, cymbals echoing and bouncing round, rim shots- five minutes of exhilarating, motorik, dubwise chaos. The group is Nisennenmondai which meant nothing to me at first. On digging a little deeper I discovered they are a Japanese trio, three women, formed in Tokyo in 1999 and named after the Japanese word for Y2K millennium bug.

There’s Something Wrong With Human Nature

A record purchase made on a whim and a coincidental sequence of posts on social media have sent me down a rabbit warren of On U Sound recently. The record purchase was On U Sound’s Pay It All back Volume 7, a budget price double album of recent releases from Adrian Sherwood’s dub stable. Not long after someone posted Human Nature, the 1991 single by Gary Clail, produced by Sherwood, a massive club and chart hit in 91 and inescapable for a while.  Weirdly I do not own Human Nature in any format- vinyl, cassette, CD or mp3. I have plenty of On U Sound, several mp3s of Gary Clail tracks and Beef on 7″ but no Human Nature. Here’s the video.

 

Clail’s impassioned vocal over the dub/ indie- dance rhythm track and that keyboard riff, the piano part and Lana Pellay’s ‘let the carnival begin…’ chorus are all obvious highlights, much of the music being David Harrow’s musical handiwork (the keyboard riff, as I’m sure you all know, was used on the titles Snub TV, the much loved BBC 2 music programme). This being 1991 there were remixes and the Steve Osbourne Perfecto mix is a banger.

Originally the song included a Reverend Billy Graham vocal sample which couldn’t be cleared for release and Clail recorded the part it himself. Some promo copies of the single made it into record shops though. You can hear it here courtesy of blogging legend stx.

In 1989 Gary Clail released an album called End Of The Century Party produced by Sherwood and  featuring an all star cast- members of Tackhead, David Harrow, Bim Sherman, Jah Wobble and Keith Levene. This one is a dubby affair with Bim on vox alongside Clail and is infectious like flu.

Two Thieves And A Liar

 

Strike The Balance

Some On U Sound heaviness for Friday, from 1989’s Dub Syndicate album Strike The Balance, a masterpiece of late 80s Sherwood dub production. This song is proper rootsy dub, all bass and echo and delay with Bim Sherman singing and a freaked out metallic Dalek vocal running through it. Towards the end some woodwind floats over the top. The rest of the album rocks too, the chanting of Hey Ho, a cover of Je T’Aime with Shara Nelson and closer I’m The Man For You Baby. Like most of Adrian Sherwood’s back catalogue, it is worth shelling out for.

Mafia

Money Dealers

Let’s end the week with some dub, a previously unreleased track from On-U Sound about to be part of a Dub Syndicate vinyl re-issue set (first four albums) and a cd anthology box (Ambience Dub 1982-1985). This is a heavy duty, wandering slice of Sherwood dub with Bim Sherman’s vocals floating above the rhythms. Echo, reverb, hisses, wobbles, sounds dropping in and out. FRiday has come and it’s not a second too soon.

Ravi

Here’s some spacey Adrian Sherwood dub from 1984 for your Sunday, making use of some Indian vibes and lashings of echo.

I had a longer post in mind but when it came to writing not much came out.

Ravi Shankar Pt 1