Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jukebox Juicebox #26

Two Culture Clash “Two Culture Clash” (2004)
This Wall Of Sound release purports to be an innovative creative pairing of electronic music producers with (predominantly Jamaican) reggae/dancehall greats. The sleeve notes even go so far as to sniffily dismiss other efforts as “half-baked, ham-fisted assemblage of dancehall vocals grafted onto electronic beats in a studio on the other side of the Atlantic”. So, has bringing the producers to Jamaica and locking them in a studio with the island’s “lyrical wordsmiths” produced the “unprecedented” success that writer David Katz clearly believes it is? Well, of course not. There are some undeniably great moments on this album, but be under no illusion that Two Cultures Clash has resulted in something completely new. Instead, the producers seems to have moulded their sound to complement the performers, most of whom dish out the lyrical clichés that both characterise and damn the musical genre. If you can accept that this won’t be the earth-shattering, life-changing album that the hype suggests, then you can settle back and enjoy nearly an hour’s worth of good music. How Do You Love? is a deliberate shot at the charts, with Jon Carter bringing out the best in vocalists Patra (who guested on his Monkey Mafia single Work Mi Body) and Danny English. The two Jacques Lu Cont tracks - …And Dance and Na Na Na Na – are perhaps the album’s dancefloor highlights, with a minimal, pulsing beats that prove impossible to resist. General Degree provides vocals on both, but the addition of Ce’Cile on the latter is like a pumped up version of Ciara’s Cookies. It should be no suprise that Roni Size doesn’t disappoint on Knock Knock, a muscular rhythm suiting Spragga Benz’s rough monotone delivery, whilst West London Deep’s Rudie No! featuring Big Youth comes on like The Specials in space. There are inevitably a couple of disappointments. Kid606 seems uncharacteristically restrained on This Anuh Rampin’ and it’s left to Switch on the subsequent Love Guide (featuring Ms. Thing) to take the sound in an abstract direction that the Kid is usually more than capable of. Phillipe Zdar (Cassius/Motorbass) injects Get Crazy with an infectious, pulsating rhythm, let down only by Innocent Kru’s tired (and tiresome) lyrics. But these are small gripes. Elsewhere, Howie B. and Horace Andy team up for Fly High, a dub extravaganza that is arguably the best song that Massive Attack never recorded, whilst Justin Robertson’s retro dancehall ballad Save Me closes the album. Showcasing a vocal from Nadine Sutherland, Save Me is guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine… and get you skanking uncontrollably. As long as you skip the sleeve notes' hyperbole , then Two Culture Clash is a great album. It's not as ground breaking as it's instigators think it is, but it is worth more than a casual listen.

Tracklisting: 1. How Do You Love? / 2. ... And Dance / 3. This Anuh Rampin' / 4. Love Guide / 5. Get Crazy / 6. Olé / 7. Enuff 4 You / 8. T Fly High / 9. Backstabbin' / 10. Knock Knock / 11. Na Na Na Na / 12. Nuff Marijuana / 13. Rudie No! / 14. Save Me

Adrian Sherwood “Becoming A Cliché / Dub Cliché” (2006)
I’ve been a fan of Adrian Sherwood since his maulings of Depeche Mode’s People Are People and Master & Servant turned me onto his prolific On-Usound productions in the 1980s. That said, I somehow managed to miss his debut solo album, 2003’s Never Trust A Hippy, altogether. In fact, even this album seems have slipped out quietly at the end of last year and caught my eye as I was browsing the reggae/dub section in my local Fopp store. The album sleeve depicts Sherwood’s head atop an anatomical diagram, surrounded by the names of the artists guesting on this album. As you might expect, it’s a formidable line-up: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Little Roy, Dennis Bovell, LSK (aka Lee Kenny), Samia Farah, Raiz, Jazzwad, Mark Stewart and the late, much-lamented Bim Sherman. The album’s title could refer to Sherwood’s perceived status as the heart and soul of the contemporary dub sound, that there is a typical Adrian Sherwood/On-Usound blueprint. Whilst recalling the glories of his Pay It All Back collections, there’s plenty of evidence across the two albums that Sherwood is an innovator as much as an institution. Opening track Animal Magic is in some respects an update of 1988’s Last Train To Doomsville from Pay It All Back Vol. 2 featuring as it does Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and infant back-up vocals, in this case from Sherwood’s daughters Denise and Emily. Monastery Of Sound - as the title suggests - throws Gregorian chants into the mix, the song really coming into it’s own on track 11, with long-time collaborator Mark Stewart adding an unmistakable vocal edge. Another track available in two versions on the original disc is You Wonder Why, the LSK version preceded by a French version by Samia Farah (a third dub take appears on CD2). There’s a difference in the versions that makes their inclusion essential, rather than self-indulgent. A special mention for Bim Sherman, whose sampled vocals enliven Nu Rizla and hammer home just how much his presence is missed. The main album closes with Bloodshed featuring Raiz from Italian act Almamegretta. My sole experience of Almamegretta was hearing their incredible version of Massive Attack’s Karmacoma over ten years ago; suffice to say Raiz is still in good form and provides an edgy variation to the On-Usound blueprint. Dub Cliché, available with limited quantities of the album, is an essential purchase (though my PC seems to throw a hissy fit every time I try to play it!) The minimal dancehall sound of Dubshed is set alight by Dennis Alcapone’s vocals, whilst the mighty Dennis Bovell returns for Clichéd Dub Slave with rousing slogans including “From conception to the grave / Work, no play / Slave!” I could go on, but I think you've got the message. Go out and buy this album. Now!

Tracklisting [Becoming A Cliché]: 1. Animal Magic / 2. Two Versions Of The Future / 3. A Piece Of The Earth / 4. Monastery Of Sound / 5. Dennis Bovine Part 1 / 6. J'Ai Changé / 7. You Wonder Why / 8. The House Of Games / 9. Nu Rizla / 10. St Peter's Gate / 11. Home Sweet Home / 12. Forgive Yourself / 13. All Hands On Desk / 14. Stop The Bloodshed
[Dub Cliché]: 1. Monkey See, Monkey Dub / 2. Dubshed / 3. Zoo Time / 4. Clichéd Dub Slave / 5. The Noise From Brazil / 6. Stepping Crowd / 7 Sans Toupee / 8. Silly Billy Remix By Activator / 9. Moving House / 10. J'Ai Dubé / 11. Dennis Bovine Pt 2/ 12. Silly Old Dub

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