In the beginning, On U Sounds Studios turned out some very twisted and subversive noise indeed.
None more so than the early recordings of African Head Charge.
But if it is dub, it was a very twisted take on a genre suffering from severe stagnation and over familiarity.
Adrian Sherwood gave it a right good kick up the backside.
And rightly so.
African Head Charge - essentially master percussionist Bonjo Noah collaborating with On U regulars - were the perfect collaborators for Sherwood; beat and rhythm was central; the perfect palette for the hip young gunslinger of a producer to apply his idiosyncratic and often hyperbolic production techniques.
Sherwood was always the extra member of the band; no matter who he worked with.
This compilation goes back to those very early days, as it's a split between the best of Drastic Season (83) and the best of Off the Beaten Track (86), the two recordings many consider to be the best albums African Head Charge produced.
The sound readily reflects the way digitization had become the new tool for producers.
Sampling, syncing, looping and sequencing had become simple. No more razor blades and sticky tape; no more analogue tape loops; no more using equipment that demanded higher maintenance than Lady Macbeth.
Byrne and Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (81) has always been held responsible for so much digitized music concrete that followed in its wake; and without a doubt African Head Charge's first couple of albums do seem deeply influenced by that seminal album.
(In a way, you could say Byrne and Eno's recording pretty much influenced everything that followed; but this was the early days of digital sampling and voice sequencing, they just happened to utilise it first.
But then you could say Byrne and Eno were influenced by the music of Steve Reich... and so on and so on....
It's all derivative, right!)
By the time Off the Beaten Track was recorded, Sherwood had grown in confidence: outlandish, scary, truly psychedelic, hallucinogenic, even.
In places, this album is a lot more Edgar Varèse than it is Keith Hudson.
African Head Charge - Great Vintage (Volume 2) (1989)
Off the Beaten Track
Language and Mentality
Release the Doctor
Down Under Again
I want Water
African Hedge Hog
Snake in the Hole
Tracks 1-8 from Off the Beaten Track
Tracks 9-15 from Drastic Season
CD rip to mp3s.