March 14, 2004

Adrian Sherwood/ Asian Dub Foundation/ The Bug , Queen Elizabeth Hall, Thursday

Like longtime collaborator Mark Stewart, Adrian Sherwood is a reverberation from the original postpunk soundclash: the mutant offspring of Cold War apocalypticism, Burroughs/Gysin cut up, JA dub, punk rage and Tommy Boy hip hop. Sherwood long since entered a parallel universe with its own rules and protocols. If you no longer look to him for cutting edging relevance, you can always rely on his old tricks to enchant and entrance . His set, fronted by MC-cum-vocalist Ghetto Priest, is full of his trademarks: hypnotic, loping percussion, sinuous bass, vocal samples, intermittent washes of reverb. Sherwood has always had the dub sorcerer's capacity to breathe unlife into recorded sound, to induce it to crawl out of the speakers.

ADF don't quite possess the same capacity; at least, not on this showing. They are functional but somehow perfunctory, uncompelling. The dub basslines, the drum and bass beats, the violin (yes!) and the MCs never add up to more than the sum of their parts. The Bug, on the other hand, start promisingly. A punitive blitzscape of pummelling beats is channeled by an MC into a frenzy which has the audience up on their feet. Yet the effect quickly palls. The sound becomes an acrid smog, a dull thudding headache, in which it is well-nigh impossible to distinguish the individual elements. The MCing, like so much live rap, merely adds to the porridge, and you start to hunger for some subtelty, some differentiation. The ultimate effect is disengagement; your nervous system, sick of the struggle, cuts out. A bad night? Bad sound? Who knows.

Many thanks to the delightful Magz of Resonance FM for scoring me a free ticket.

Posted by mark at March 14, 2004 12:10 AM | TrackBack

I know what you mean about the Bug (and Kevin Martin generally - that Techno Animal cd loses its impact after the first few tracks), but the soundclash setup (ADF and the Bug alternating 10 minute sets)stopped that happening for me. The MCing styles as well as the sonics really contrasted. The Bug tunes with Warrior Queen were awesome, her higher pitched voice and hooks over the top of all the mentalist noise. Also the skinny bloke playing percussion guitar was Keith Levene! Blow me. If anything, the Bug's noise needed to be higher up in the mix. Basically, the QEH is not a good venue for that sort of thing, although there was an incongruous sort of vibe, which was fun.

Anyway, my main point is the flyer I picked up, (for a rephlex night at the End , with the Bug, plastic man) :

"Grime. Sublow. Dubstep... It's Music. Different people call it different things depending on when they discovered it. In the 80s maybe it was House, Techno and Electro. In the 90s it was UKG, Drum & Bass, Breaks or whatever. Now there are so many terms for it that the journalists can't pidgeon-hole it anymore. This is a good thing - it's music. Moody music. Multifunctional multifaceted music created by Humans with Brains, Hearts, Machines Electricity. Music that's great for dancing to in clubs, or submerging yourself within your headphones, your car, your home, wherever. It's instrumental dance music, but it's the perfect form for the best MCs and vocalists. We at Rephlex call it Grime to publicise to the people at large outside of the specialist world of its producers. The pursts might debate the name, but while they do that, crews around the globe are uniting in this strong and fresh dance movement. In this age of information Technology, people are easily able to find real quality that they actually want, without being spoon-fed compromised product. Now is a time of change and the soundtrack is ... GRIME"

Sorry to quote at length, but ???. Unpack that.

Posted by: Jamie at March 16, 2004 06:11 PM

Have to say that the Warrior Queens tunes didn't work for me, either. It was like two things going on at once; too unpleasantly dissonant.

When's the Rephlex event at the End btw?

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 17, 2004 12:24 AM

Well, I would say I liked it. I paid for my ticket. ;)

It's on the 23rd April.

Did you not think that was a pretty extraordinary contribution to the 'What do u call it?' debate? Well on the gradualist/steady state tip rather than the punctuated equilibrium/big bang of new genres giving birth to new sonic species/galaxies. Quite an appropriation of the term, too.

Looks a good night though.

Posted by: Jamie at March 17, 2004 02:46 PM