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Adrian Sherwood - Survival & Resistance

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Artist: Adrian Sherwood

Album: Survival & Resistance

Label: On-U Sound

Review date: Aug. 31, 2012

While Adrian Sherwood long ago cemented his legacy as British dub ambassador, his true strength — both with remixes and productions, and his On-U Sound label — has been blending dub with other flavors in the creation of a forceful, cross-genre collage. Whether constructing subwoofer symphonies for Mark Stewart’s spittle-flecked rants, or teasing out the dread behind Primal Scream’s dance floor leanings, Sherwood’s work frequently focuses on the noirish crossroads between dub, post-punk and dance music.

In learning that Sherwood’s new album, Survival & Resistance, was influenced by recent socio-political upheaval in the U.K. — including the 2011 London riots and continued crush of the global economic meltdown — one would be excused for anticipating a properly challenging listen. For those expecting darkness, the sounds captured here will come as a touch of a surprise. The album strides a path between “pretty” and “paranoid,” but mostly sides with the former. The lurching dub of “Balance” teases the speakers with spurts of flayed synths, a shuffling beat and minor chord piano figure. Piano returns on “U.R. Sound,” where samples of psychedelic yuppie-shaman Timothy Leary are buttressed by a crawling, hollow beat. “Bossa 2” pits hand drums, guitar and electronics alongside the type of bass lines that keep speaker repair technicians in business.

In many ways, the songs on Survival & Resistance land nearer to late-’90s Bristol than 2012 London. These tracks are more Massive Attack than Martyn, which, in Sherwood’s case is a compliment. Rather than step to the plate for his turn at dubstep or U.K. Bass, Sherwood channels his usual angels and demons, finding a way to reference classic dub plates and electronic music while polishing it to a contemporary sheen.

This confidence in his craft causes Sherwood to create tracks that sound vital and timeless in a way that will last well beyond the buzz following a night spent freaking at Fabric. Survival & Resistance may be inspired by the modern world, but it succeeds in reaching beyond it.

By Ethan Covey

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