It’s tempting to ask why no one thought of it sooner. Coldcut (Matt Black and Jon More) and Adrian Sherwood – kingpin of the legendary On-U Sound label – are the perfect sonic match; two pioneers of British music united by a maverick spirit. These artists have a deep intertwined history- On-U Sound is printed in Coldcut’s genes in the music they grew up with. Coldcut x On-U Sound’s Outside the Echo Chamber via Ahead Of Our Time (Coldcut’s first label) – is an album of freshly-minted, electronic dub-pop. The first offering of which is ‘Divide and Rule” where Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Junior Reid and Elan breathe political fire and sonic glee into an exemplary dub, backed by a remix by Glasgow-based soundsystem Mungo's Hi Fi.
Uniting an array of global musicians and vocalists including Roots Manuva, Junior Reid, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Ce’Cile – to name but a few – and made in London, Ramsgate, Jamaica, and Los Angeles – where co-producer and fellow dance heavyweight Dave Taylor (Switch & With You.) is now based. Toddla T also helped produce 2 songs. Outside the Echo Chamber is a timely rallying call for Britain’s musical melting pot. At the beating heart of this album are long time On-U Sound collaborators Skip McDonald on guitar and bassist Doug Wimbish. These two formed part of the house band for the pioneering rap label Sugar Hill, providing the music for some of the most seminal records of the era like Grandmaster Flash's ‘The Message', and many others.
The trajectories of Coldcut and Adrian Sherwood take in some key moments in U.K. music. Coldcut’s origins are in the fertile hotbed of late ‘80s London, and the pre-commercial dance music that evolved from it. They were ‘the first Brit artists to really get hip-hop’s class-cutup aesthetic,’ introducing rap to ravers, creating a heady blend of hip-hop production aesthetics and proto-acid house grooves, and becoming a precursor for scenes as diverse as electronica, breakbeat and ambient. For 40 years now, forward-thinking sound scientist and mixologist Adrian Sherwood has been blowing minds and speakers alike. Producer, remixer, and undisputed patriarch of the British dub collective/record label On-U Sound, Sherwood has long been regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists in contemporary dance and modern reggae music. He’s worked with a dizzying array of artists, including Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Roots Manuva and Nine Inch Nails.
More important than the individual histories, though, is the one that these two artists share. Long before Coldcut even existed, Jon More and Matt Black were buying On-U Sound releases. “Their records were a unique and powerful influence on us,” Black says. More remembers that “the first On-U Sound record I picked up was Prince Far I. I bought it in High Wycombe when I lived there, at Art College in 1979.” Black : “Me and my mates used to collect the records, the design of On-U Sound 10 inch black and white sleeves were so cool. Without On-U there would be no Ninja Tune.” “Jon and I both went to High Wycombe technical college,” Sherwood says. The globally-minded, reggae sound of Outside the Echo Chamber has its origins in this period. These early influences found their way into Coldcut’s own music. “The whole Coldcut mash up thing was partly inspired by On-U,” Black says. “When we made a Go-Go style record ‘Stop That Crazy Thing’ for our first album and put reggae vocalist Junior Reed (who features on ‘Outside the Echo Chamber) on there, that was the On-U influence. Adrian made connections, he also did a remix of it.”
In the bleak political landscape of early 2017, this album’s warmth, and its outward-looking, globally-minded sound couldn’t feel more welcome.