Wednesday, September 19, 2007
African Head Charge - Drastic Season
African Head Charge - Drastic Season
Label - On-U Sound
Recorded - 1983
Style - Electronic, Reggae, Dub, Experimental, Lee Library
Featuring percussion by the one Style Scott; Congos by Bonjo I; produced by Adrian Sherwood. You should already know about African Head Charge, but for those who don't....
It always seemed that Adrian Sherwood's future-proof labelling of his early eighties On-U Sound albums, as for example - "another 1992 On-U Sound production", was an affectation at best and mild megalomania at worst. Listening back to that work now the arrogant young producer's artistic licence can be acknowledged as precociously well founded, especially when applied to the work of the unit known as African Head Charge (AHC). This virtual band coalesced around the percussion talents of Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, Bonjo to you and me, subsequent to the demise of Creation Rebel, a real time band who had been subject to the rigours, disciplines and boredom that recording, rehearsing, touring and playing inevitably bring.
The "Drastic Season" LP (ON-U LP 27) was originally released on vinyl on the 20th of October 1983. Like its predecessors it was a largely instrumental affair with little actual dubbing and no detectable vocal samples. However the sound of Sherwood's production had become radically different with the move to Southern Studios, where state of the art digital studio hardware lived in harmony with the hard edged punk ethic of the musicians who inhabited the area by night. The first phase of AHC's development was coming to a logical conclusion, as on their future recorded output we would discover more studio generated ideas and the introduction of more chants and captured vocal and ambient sounds (samples) whilst Bonjo conversely emerged as the leader of not only a real band but also a fully-fledged touring outfit.
So this set finds Head Charge very much in mid-stream. Bonjo had not yet carved out his niche as the happy-go-lucky king of the ethno-chant so beloved by the festival-goers of UK and Europe. The sound of "Drastic Season" is stop-go, at once urgent but searching, wired and speed-fuelled, some would find the listening experience failing to stop short of the psychotic. The band suffered from not conforming to one particular category or another, not reggae or new wave and certainly not new romantic! Who would play this on radio? Which promoter would take the risk of presenting this stuff in live performance before a crowd of innocent and gullible students? Where was this music coming from? The answer was - the mind and fingers of Adrian Sherwood who regarded the album's studio sessions as...
"...experiments in active frequencies, out of time noises, rhythms within rhythms, and endless tape edits (edits on edits) resulting in the ultimate cut-up and paste job..."
...which, in retrospect, can be seen as an integral learning experience for the then young producer. When "Drastic Season" was originally released On-U Sound were not in the habit of commissioning sleeve notes for their albums. However, a few sporadic press releases crept out of the On-U bunker, including this one:
"A high-tech rhythm mix of human, animal and machine sounds, captured on the Southern Studios digital rig by the "wackid' mixer ADRIAN SHERWOOD, up in sunny Wood Green, "DRASTIC SEASON" features that On-U rugged bass sound. Check it if you're a dancer, a listener, a film maker, a computer programmer, a human or an animal. Special treats in store for steam locomotive enthusiasts and biologists. You've never heard such sounds in your life (to quote ESP)."
1 Timbuktu Express (4:37)
2 I Want Water (6:04)
3 Bazaar (5:10)
4 African Hedge Hog (5:38)
5 Depth Charge (4:06)
6 Fruit Market (5:03)
7 Snake In The Hole (5:15)
8 Many Generations (7:18)