London Underground were on the very first release by the On-U label, a split 7″ with the New Age Steppers in 1980, though by 1983 they had reached the end of the line. They released a pair of albums that year, the eight-song At Home With The London Underground (March) and the six-song mini-album Current Affairs Session (October).
Current Affairs Session truly captures the dub sound that On-U became known for, aided in no small part by London Underground’s underlying style which included heavy reggae undertones. The songs have a quasi-relegiousness about them, the lyrics being sung by true believers trying to preach their message to the world. The studio effects are certainly heavily applied, but it all fits together in an organic way; the dub treatment simply fits the music.
Right from the opening track “Pull Down Your Pants” ATM had me hooked with the slow, almost languid beats dripping thickly like a Solo cup of purple drank. It’s electro, it’s post-punky, it’s dub… it’s like being stoned and trying to eat caramel, or watching your dog eat peanut butter.
It’s not all viscous, though. Jams like “Rave Nature” pick up the tempo and provide a surreal blend of dub and chiptune, two things that on the surface couldn’t be more opposite, but in practice fit together like… well… I don’t know what like, because this shouldn’t work! (♠) Side A closes out with the Giorgio Moroder-esque “Mdma Bliss”, its crystalline synths reflecting the light like the crushed crystals of its namesake drug.
The madness continues on side B. I could sit and groove out to “Da Da Da” for a couple of hours straight. ATM also throw a curveball with “Poetry”, a song with clearly discernible lyrics that could have easily found a home on a Butthole Surfers album. And then “Slow Skronk”… what the hell is happening here? The opening guitars are quickly replaced by some assorted horns in an almost avant garde jazz fashion, and I think my brain is starting to liquify.
You can hear Inglewood Tapes Vol. 2, as well as purchase the vinyl, on the Radical Documents Bandcamp page HERE. It’s too bad Vol. 1 is already sold out… I may have to try to track it down on Discogs, because I like what ATM are doing.
Sometimes fate forces you to buy a record. A few weeks back we were in Hiroshima, Japan with plans of stopping at Dumb Records. When we got there they weren’t open yet so we decided to head back up to the main street and just wander around for a bit, but then right there on the corner we spotted the sign for Stereo Records and figured we’d just go check them out first. Stereo Records is a great shop – small like most record stores in Japan, but well organized and full of awesome stuff. I pulled a 12″ called Robot War out of the Japanese Pop/Rock section simply because it looked interesting, and imagine my surprise when I flipped it over and saw that it was recorded at On-U Sound and produced by none other than Adrian Sherwood. My love for all things On-U is not a secret, and this just seemed like the perfect conjunction of events, as if the universe was trying to tell me that I needed this record. And who am I to argue with the universe?
A blend of dub reggae and electronica, Sherwood’s fingerprints can be felt all over Robot War. And is that Gary Clail I hear repeated saying “Robot War” throughout the song? He isn’t credited, but it sure sounds like him and he would have been hanging out doing other stuff at On-U during this period. The B side track “Stiff Wheel” puts aside any notions of reggae and instead comes at you like a cosmic dub space jam, the strong bass line keeping the beat while everything else flares off all around like a fireworks display. Some classic On-U stuff.
This 12″ from 1979 caught my eye the other day over at Seattle’s Daybreak Records, and I’m glad it did. I can’t tell you much about Red Beat, but the three songs on Machines In Motion sound like The Clash at their most dub… and then dubbed some more. It’s hard to believe this is from 1979 – it feels like something from a few years later that On-U Sound might have put out.
Augustus Pablo made me a fan of that most ridiculous of instruments, the melodica, that strange combination of a woodwind instrument and a kazoo and a piano necktie. It’s absurd, but when you play some reggae riddims with it… magic happens. So when I saw this 1981 collection of melodica reggae tunes the other day I had to buy it, both because it was all melodica all the time and frankly because it’s a vintage reggae record; not sure about the music scene where you live, but up here in Seattle most 1980s and earlier reggae comes to you via reissues.
I decided to play Melodica Melodies tonight because at 7PM my living room feels like Jamaica. After a crazy wet and cold winter that even had Seattle natives complaining about the rain, we’ve been in a warm dry spell and right now it’s 81 degrees in my living room and more than a bit humid. If it gets any hotter the vinyl will warp.
The songs on this comp are a combination of dub tunes and straight reggae… though even the reggae jams are more musical than vocal. It’s everything you’d expect it to be, and that’s exactly what I need on a hot night with a cool drink. Melodica Melodies is a smooth chill trip, and well worth checking out.