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Trevor Jackson Presents: Science Fiction Dancehall Classics Bob Cluness , October 8th, 2015 08:32

The press release that comes with Science Fiction Dancehall Classics, a new 2 CD/3LP, 27-track compilation of classic cuts, rarities and remixes curated by artist, re-mixer and producer Trevor Jackson, states that the compilation represents the more avant, electronic side of the On-U Sound label. What it actually means to say is that it showcases the more avant side of Adrian Sherwood.

But if we're being honest, On-U Sound is Adrian Sherwood. When he's not producing or remixing artists or bands on the label, then he is in actual groups, (such as with Fats Comet, Tackhead, or Missing Brazilians) or running under an alias (Voice Of Authority). Sherwood is the main thread that runs throughout Science Fiction Dancehall Classics and the canny selections Jackson has excavated highlight the impact he has made on bass music, a human hub at the centre of a sprawling network that fosters cross pollination and cultural exchanges between Jamaican underground reggae and dub, post-punk experimentalism and the burgeoning fields of hip hop and UK dance music.

While some of the tracks and artists will be recognisable to many On-U Sound aficionados – Creation Rebel & New Age Stepper's 'Chemical Specialist', African Head Charge's 'Off The Beaten Track' and Mark Stewart & The Maffia's 'The Wrong Name And The Wrong Number' – Jackson places a greater emphasis on teasing out more outré and unconventional sounds, hard to find one-offs tracks that mirror many of Sherwood's productions. Keith LeBlanc's 'Move' and Atmosfear's 'When Tonight Is Over' for example, have no actual connection On-U Sound itself, only being included by virtue of being produced or remixed by Sherwood. Such tenuous track selections though provide some genuine ear tweakers. The Chicken Granny's 'Quit The Body' for example, is a burst of twitchy, furious percussion and bass allied with shrieking, unhinged vocals. The Circuit, an alias of composer Steve Beresford, features with three tracks - 'Loudspeaker', the unreleased 'Dead Come Alive' featuring a pre-fame Neneh Cherry, and 'Aiming At Your Heart' featuring the always tender and soulful Shara Nelson - all of which are a bristling meld of street-smart electro toughness and otherworldly sonic improvisations.

The title of the compilation, with its emphasis on Sci-fi aesthetics is very telling here. In his book More Brilliant Than The Sun, Kodwo Eshun (in)famously stated that "Dub demands symbiosis that externalises the mind, drastically re-configuring the human producer into a machine being, an audio cyborg." While dub producers such as Scientist and Lee Scratch Perry have often waxed about the wonders of outer space, Science Fiction Dancehall Classics sees Sherwood's trad dub cyborg producer undergoing a technological recalibration and cross contamination with post-punk and industrial, the end result creating music tailored for urban innerspace. Organic rhythms sounds are replaced by the synthetic clicks and gurgles of electronic machines. Dub Syndicate's 'Over Board' is awash with metallic hisses and fluorescent synths that rake across your brain. Meanwhile the mid compilation salvo of Keith LeBlanc's 'Move', Tackhead's 'Now What?', and Voice Of Authority's 'Stopping And Starting', with their rigid beats and brutalist sensibilities, highlight the evolution of industrial music from harsh noise collages to dance driven rhythms, complete with electro pulses, vocal cut ups and samples.

Although there have been numerous retrospectives and "best of" compilations from the On-U sound label in the past, the release of Science Fiction Dancehall Classics feels a lot more judicious this time around. After seemingly being left behind to the historical wilderness for a long period, we're beginning to see a more thorough reassessment of the impact and influence that Sherwood and the dub explorations of the On-U Sound label brought upon UK music and beyond. As well as the continuing fruitful collaborations between himself and Croydon producer Pinch – producing the wonderful Late Night Endless earlier this year – Sherwood is now being heralded as an elder statesman of bass, providing lectures on recording techniques over at the Red Bull Music Academy. Science Fiction Dancehall Classics, with its blend of revamped urban dub and bizarre cybernetic aesthetics, proves the most suitable companion primer to Sherwood's own 2015 selective compilation, Sherwood At The Controls, Vol. 1: 1979-1984.