[Sherwood, Pinch & Ishan Sound @ Start The Bus, Bristol. 12/02/15].
You don’t have to look far to find a dub night in Bristol. The low growl of sub-bass and the clatter of snares seem to constantly bubble beneath the surface of the city, a subterranean pulse feeding its underground musical culture. What distinguished the latest event from Simple Things Festival, however, was the presence of three generations of producers of considerable pedigree. To see Adrian Sherwood alone would have been worth the cost of the ticket. But the veteran producer and founder of On-U Records was joined by Bristolian dubstep and techno prodigy Pinch, whose own productions and work with Tectonic records have further cemented the West Country capital as the primary bastion of dub/step outside of London. The replacement of Massive Attack vocalist Daddy G with Young Echo member Ishan Sound only added to the calibre of the evening, which coincided with the release of Sherwood and Pinch’s recent collaboration, the LP Late Night Endless.
The last-minute change in venue from The Marble Factory to Start the Bus merely added to the intimacy of the night, which essentially consisted of a giant soundsystem in the front room of a pub. With Adrian Sherwood at the controls, expectations were high that the sound would be tight, and indeed the levels were so expertly manipulated that it felt at times like the bass might punch a hole though my chest.
Sherwood, alongside contemporaries such as Mad Professor, can be credited with cementing the UK’s obsession with dub music and Jamaican soundsystem culture. Lurking behind untold productions including those of acts such as African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate, as well as expanding into other genres including post-punk and various world musics, he has spent more than 30 years of single-minded dedication to the craft of using the mixing desk as an instrument, as passed down by original Jamaican experimentalists Lee ‘Scratch Perry’, King Tubby and Scientist. To see him see perform live is therefore a rare privilege, and one that has the crowd- a mixture of students who don’t have to get up the next morning, and old-timers who do have to get up but don’t care – bouncing all night long.
While detractors will slate the sound of dub music and its derived genres as being static and rooted in the past, the quality of the acts proved otherwise. The usual distinctions between dub and dubstep, a contentious issue for genre-obsessed bass fanatics, were temporarily erased. The night veered between old-school reggae classics such as Gregory Issac’s ‘Easy Take It Easy’, to brooding Bristol dubstep before being taken to apocalyptic depths by Ishan. The three artists, each with their own unique take on the sound, illustrated the fact that in a peculiar way, dub seems to be an aesthetic in a constant state of evolution, capable of creeping into all kinds of unexpected musical cracks, defying any efforts to pin it down.