An excellent new box set chronicles the second half of Adrian Sherwood’s celebrated vision of a Psychedelic Africa
One of the most enjoyable wormholes to fall down is 80s Proto-Psychedelic Dub, a sound that fell somewhere between the dirt floor of King Tubby’s studio and the second night of The Clash’s residency at Bonds.
And in terms of the sound’s roots in the UK, there was no artist more massive than Adrian Sherwood. Alongside Don Letts and Jah Wobble, the producer has been essential in keeping the pulse of dub and reggae alive in the New Wave era, especially through his work with such industrial acts as Ministry, KMFDM and Einstürzende Neubauten. As a member of Tackhead with Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, his name also became well known among those who followed the New York “Black Rock” movement of the mid-80s as well.
But it’s his four decade journey in collaboration with Jamaican percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah as African Head Charge that’s come to define Sherwood’s prowess as a true conqueror of the 120 Minutes era.
In 2016, U-Sound released a box set of the group’s first four albums with the essential Environmental Holes & Drastic Tracks: 1981 – 1986. Five years later comes Drumming Is A Language, a 5 CD box set comprised of music originally released between 1990 and 2011. What had initially inspired Sherwood to found AHC in the first place was a quote he read in an interview with Brian Eno from a 1981 issue of Sounds Magazine, where the producer was talking about his classic collaboration with David Byrne, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts as his “African psychedelic vision.”
”I heard an interesting programme on the radio this morning in New York, about the influence of African music on contemporary work,” Eno told Sounds. “It’s incredible! In the last few months there’s been so much stuff come out that’s had a very distinct and conscious African influence. It was really extraordinary the amount of stuff he played, most of which I hadn’t heard . . . So the first thing I should say is that this African vision I had, there were clearly a lot of other people tuning in to it at the same time . . . It comes a lot from conversations with my friend Jon Hassell, the trumpeter. We’d been thinking a lot about the interface between primitive and futuristic, and it seems that rather than the old theory of the modern giving way to the post-modern, linear progression, that the interesting ideas are being generated by the primitive, meaning the unchanged aspects of the old world . . . On this programme there were a lot of records by people using electronics and basically tribal instruments, and doing it very successfully on a lot of occasions.”
Sherwood read this and saw it as a challenge, and thus African Head Charge was born as a gauntlet thrown down from one visionary to another. And on the group’s second box set, we get the AHC output from 1990 to 2011, where Sherwood and Bonjo took their own collective vision of a Psychedelic Africa to it’s full fruition by incorporating vocals into their outernational sound system.
This new box set includes the album that is widely regarded as their singular classic, 1990’s Songs Of Praise, and also 1993’s In Pursuit Of Shashamane Land, both adorned with tasty bonus tracks. It also includes 2005’s Vision Of A Psychedelic Africa and 2011’s Voodoo Of The Godsent that are pressed to vinyl for the first time, both as double-LP sets, and as a companion piece to the Return Of The Crocodile LP of early rarities, Churchical Chant Of The Iyabinghi compiles alternate mixes and dubs from 1990 -1993 that is beyond essential, especially for fans of the early AHC material.
Any fan of Sherwood’s history at the intersection of dub and industrial already know how essential AHC is to his lexicon. But Drumming Is A Language is an absolute must-own for anyone who has grown to appreciate what not only Adrian Sherwood but Bad Brains, Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell has done to create this strong and varied catalog of modern dub sounds these last 40 years.
VIDEO: African Head Charge Drumming Is A Language trailer