Pinch & Sherwood
Late Night Endless
, February 25th, 2015 10:33
Since the beginnings of their collaboration, fans of both dubstep and dub in the greater sense have certainly been watching the work of Pinch & Sherwood closely, and the results have been admittedly mixed. It's a rare occurrence for such pairings to simultaneously hit the peaks of both producers, and Adrian Sherwood's influence is so overarching in the world of dub, second only to a few well-known Jamaicans, that Rob Ellis, aka Pinch, himself admits to being drawn into his circle of fans at a very early age. Whether the results of this early exposure are directly audible in Ellis' music is debatable, but what has arisen from their work together resembles more closely the mentor than the student, even if both are present. Based on a rare live performance of the duo in New York, there's a lot more to be heard here, and in recent interviews they have characterised their work together as an ongoing, friendly, and even informal. A certain naturalness to the sound emerges that's indicative of this aspect, and in its varying results Late Night Endless is best characterised by this.
This is hardly the first time Pinch has engaged in collaborative work: in fact two of his three albums are full-length collaborative projects, each with producers whose work are sui generis for their genres, along with a veritable list of one-off or 12" pairings with the likes of Roska, Loefah, Mumdance and Photek. In many of these instances, Pinch has thrived from the additional input, and his minimal, distinctive style has proven complimentary to a variety of ideas that have borne fruit on these pairings. Tellingly, the album with Shackleton was one of the few where it felt he was overshadowed by his sparring partner, although it resulted in a memorable piece that succinctly caught a certain moment in dubstep's evolution. Sherwood's music has always been harder to pin down though: he applied dub ideology to vast swathes of music, in the process expanding the reach of these ideas and greatly influencing studio technique and early remix culture in the 1980s.
Ten tracks in length and running only at around 40 minutes, Late Night Endless is a dub album in truest form, although there are plenty of places where the 'step is equally present. It's Sherwood whose sound is most obvious at most every moment, with the sometimes-cartoonish distortion of vocals through dub effects or the prominence of the vocal lines and samples at all – a rarity in solo Pinch tracks – as well as the densely detailed atmospheres throughout. In this context, the obviously-modern and dubstep influenced percussion on many of the tracks tends to hang behind the duo's arrangements, with heavy emphasis on Sherwood's input. It opens impressively with 'Shadowrun', a track with a steadily chugging kick pattern that is regularly obliterated by columns of distorted bass and percussion and dramatic use of effects to stutter and stop the steady churn or suddenly wash it away into dystopian wells of reverberations. It's also the most unnerving track on the record, a brave opening salvo that leads into a series of pieces that do not always match its impact.
Sherwood's virtuoso manipulation of effects and industrial soundscapes, landing somewhere between crushed, primitive-sounding digital distortions and noise for the sake of it, show easy comparisons to his earlier work that blurred boundaries between dub and industrial music. It takes until the third piece, 'Give Some More/Tight Like That', for something recognisably Pinch to really surface, here in the form of a wobbling dubstep bassline and characteristically uptempo percussion, but it's still filled out by a dense web of vocal samples run ragged through the soundboard that shows the old master at work. 'Precinct Of Sound' and 'Africa 138' from the second half are little more than dubstep with a bit of dressing to disguise them, and with the short track lengths – more characteristic of proper dub than dubstep – ideas occasionally feel underdeveloped. More straightforward dub tracks like 'Bucketman', saturated both in reggae's celebration of collie weed and a dread atmosphere to suit the lyrical content, seem to owe little to Pinch in subject or execution with the exception of the percussion structures. The album closes similarly in 'Run Them Away', where bleeping dub feedback and more close, emotional vocals occupy centre stage with marginally modernised accompaniment.
Sometimes a balance is struck, as on 'Stand Strong', where delicately minimalistic dubstep patterns are complemented by emotional vocals and piano chords, evoking Pinch's gentlest moments but also showing the hand of the Sherwood. It's a trick rarely repeated elsewhere on the record. 'Different Eyes' comes close, the modern rhythmic elements and bass surges again wrapped around prominent vocal lines and African rhythmic ideas that would not be found in Ellis' solo work in the same form. At its strongest points, occupying about half of the running time, there's little doubt that Late Night Endless achieves a true synthesis between contemporary and historical developments in dub. The album would achieve true brilliance if it maintained these high points throughout, but it suffers when the two producers fail to gel completely and land too close to territory already well covered in their separate work.
The philosophy of dub music itself, a genre that revels in its own excesses and whose most famous advocates, Sherwood included, churned out streams of often-related albums that could confound all but the closest followers, may be in part responsible for the results here. Many historical dub albums were little more than a series of studio experiments that offered a sampling of the various moods found in reggae with little attempt at crafting an overreaching musical narrative. Pinch had already hit the nail more sharply when Tectonic released Scientist Launches Dubstep Into Outer Space, whose all-star cast was summoned by Scientist's mixing desk into a strange brew more psychedelically potent than its separate parts. On Late Night Endless, Pinch and Sherwood come close, but coming from two of the most influential figures working in these areas today, there's a greater expectation here that isn't always met. When it does, it shines.