Music Reviews

Adrian Sherwood

Never Trust A Hippy


“Dub derives its name from the practice of dubbing instrumental, rhythm-oriented versions of reggae songs onto the B-sides of 45 rpm singles. (This) evolved into a legitimate and accepted style of its own as those re-recordings became forums for engineers to experiment with the possibilities of their mixing consoles. Remixing the instrumental tracks, bringing up the level of the rhythm section…and adding new effects like reverb and echo.”

The preceding is taken (in slightly edited form) from the definition of dub in the All Music Guide. In all honesty, much like the genre that spawned it, dub is something that I can usually only take a few bites of at a time.

A lot of records I’ve liked over the years have either been dub or dub-influenced, for example: Keith LeBlanc’s Malcolm X sample jam, “No Sell Out,” Orb tracks like “Towers of Dub,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” the Mighty Quinn soundtrack and, of course, the Flying Lizard’s “Money.” Still, the genre tends to sound more like a spice to me than something I want overpowering my whole meal.

I tell you all this in aid of your knowing where I come from when I say: The extremely well-known rock/dance/dub producer/mixer Adrian Sherwood’s first-ever solo album is awesome, but still loses me before it comes to a stop. Samples, steady, bass-heavy gaits, adventuresome sonics (Sherwood’s young daughters sing on a track or two) and some surprising guest instrumentalists (including “post-bop” trumpet player Harry Beckett) combine winningly.

But it’s still an album I think I’ll be playing selected tracks rather than just letting spin (then again, in the remote age, isn’t that how we all play our albums?)

Sherwood’s skill is not in question – he is justly famous (at least among those who pay attention to producer/mixer credits, and I know that’s most of you, gentle readers) for his work with artists from Nine Inch Nails to Coldcut to Pop Will Eat Itself. As a mixer, Sherwood follows the dub tradition of stripping music down to its purest essence to re-interpret it. For the listener, this can be extremely exciting, but it can also take away some of the raw elements you most enjoy and leave you with nothing. As an artist, Sherwood also sometimes goes to the other extreme, overloading your senses with those elements until (metaphorically speaking) you’re ready to run shrieking.

All that said, Never Trust A Hippy (great fucking title) is good enough to satisfy a dub “day tripper” such as myself; those of you who already make this kind of music your steady diet will doubtlessly savor. But then, if you are one of those sorts of people, you didn’t need me to tell you about Adrian Sherwood anyway.

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