Key moments and tracks from On-U Sound’s premier dub group.
You could spend the rest of the winter researching producer, musician and On-U Sound founder Adrian Sherwood – and you should – and still have a bunch of spring and summertime listening to do. Starting in the late 1970s, the London-born artist was formative in creating the so-called punky reggae vibe that effortlessly married post-punk and reggae to set sketchy punk-club dance floors afire.
A member or affiliate of acts including Tackhead, the New Age Steppers and African Head Charge, in 1982 Sherwood teamed up with the late Roots Radics and Creation Rebel percussionist Style Scott to form Dub Syndicate. They continually released studio albums for the next three decades, until Scott’s death in 2014. Across two dozen studio and collaborative albums, the group featured a rotating band of reggae, dancehall and electronic geniuses including Lee “Scratch” Perry, Capleton, Luciano, Flabba Holt, Bill Laswell, Dean Fraser and Talvin Singh.
From a historical perspective, the spirit of Sherwood’s On-U Sound played a key role in the foundations of the Bristol Sound. There, in a port city three hours west of London, artists including Massive Attack, Portishead, Smith & Mighty, and Tricky found inspiration in Sherwood’s – and many others’ – approach.
Sherwood’s discography has countless entryways. The deepest, most cavernous of them, though, is Dub Syndicate. From their 1982 debut album, The Pounding System (Ambience In Dub), to their final one, Hard Food, in 2015, Sherwood and Style Scott created bone-rumbling dub that sounds deeper with every listen.
Below, a few highlights.
Ravi Shankar Pt.1 (1984)
Tunes From The Missing Channel is Sherwood at his best taking full control of the studio as an instrument and letting his creativity run wild. This track, in particular, features Sherwood’s signature squelchy filter bass, keyboard sitar from Kishi Yamamoto, and some sort of engine starting sample that Sherwood uses as a rhythmic element.
Stoned Immaculate (1991)
The title track from Stoned Immaculate finds Dub Syndicate sampling a Jim Morrison spoken word piece while laying down an immaculately hazy groove. (Bonus listening: Original Rockers would also use this sample on their chillout classic “Stoned”)
Dubbing Psycho Thriller (1993)
One of the hottest tracks on Dub Syndicate’s aptly titled 1993 album Echomania, “Dubbing Psycho Thriller” features Lee Perry singing lyrics “transmitted from the pleasure zone.” Perry’s presence lifts an already soaring electronic dub track even higher.
At their peak, Dub Syndicate was a regular at British festivals. This clip sees them playing at Carnival ’94 in Brighton’s Stanmer Park, and includes an interview with Style Scott.
Live on French TV (1998)
Sadly, Dub Syndicate didn’t appear on TV too often so there aren’t many clips. This 1998 performance on French TV features Style Scott on drums, bassist Bagga Walker, Alon Adiri on sampler and synths, Earl Fitzsimmons playing keyboards and guitarist Vince Black.
The Precinct of Sound (2002)
This track needs no caption, explanation or explication. Just volume, a good sound system and a room full of bass. We also recommend “Reggae Raga” off this album, which features a raga drone cruising along with a laid back dub groove and tripped-out analog synthesizers.
Taken from their stellar 1991 album Stoned Immaculate, “Wadada” is Dub Syndicate at its most sinister. This clip from 2007 illustrates the players’ sheer skill at developing and exploring a groove.
Synthesized Satie for home listening, the dance floor, and beyond. You’ve heard groundbreaking French composer Erik Satie’s slow, existential sounding pieces in numerous films, shows, animations, and documentaries. […]