The UK bass heavyweights give us a peek behind the curtain of their latest project.
Adrian Sherwood and Rob Ellis AKA Pinch, make a fearsome production duo on paper. Sherwood, a dub specialist, has worked with everyone from Lee “Scratch” Perry to Sly & Robbie, and from his label, On-U Sound, he’s been championing the sound in the UK since 1979. While Ellis, as one of the first artists to push a crossover between dubstep and other genres like dancehall and world music styles, long ago secured his place in the pantheon of UK club music.
Their collaborative efforts as Sherwood & Pinch are some of the most forward-thinking pieces of bass-heavy music you’ll find, and their latest effort, Man Vs. Sofa, is no exception. Flickering between whichever genre takes their fancy, be it dub, dubstep, breakbeat, or something more amorphous, the duo create fascinating tracks that demand multiple listens, as contemplative as they are face-melting.
To help unpack their creations, the producers have provided a track by track breakdown of Man Vs. Sofa. Check it out below.
1. Roll Call
Pinch: This one makes a great opener for the album. It sets a thick, moody atmosphere from the offset that carries a sense of where the last LP ‘Late Night Endless’ left things. It’s got a restrained sense of melodrama from the piano and skittering beats, while the wah-wah guitar line adds a suitable degree of sleaziness to things.
Sherwood: This sets the mood well and gives a sense of ‘what’s going to happen next?’
2. Itchy Face
Pinch: This is one of my favourites on the album – it’s got a claustrophobic, fidgety energy to it which is where inspiration for the title came from. It’s like a feeling of frustration that then builds in the track until it explodes with the reece bass. When Martin Duffy’s piano comes in, it feels like they convert that restless energy into a more grounded and positive direction.
Sherwood: It’s one of the most intense and the most ‘techno’ tracks, but also has melodic touches and vintage elements – the latter being attributed to some classic, old equipment I recently acquired.
3. Midnight Mindset
Pinch: The Eastern scales in the melodies here definitely give this one a bit of an exotic feel. I remember when we were in the studio, moving the placement of one kick drum gave the track much more of a skanking groove. There was this moment of ‘ah! now that’s it.’
Sherwood: I love this one. Dark and moody – good flavours!
Pinch: We knew as soon as we’d finished ‘Lies’ that it would be a popular choice and from the reviews and responses we’ve had on the LP so far it certainly seems that way. The Lee Perry vocal is from about 15 or so years ago, and you can hear that he’s very much on form in the recording. We deliberately spaced the vocals to give them lots of room to breathe and actually got a saxophonist in to play the melody of a sample we were temporarily using as the chorus line – again, to give Lee Perry’s vocal as much space as possible.
Sherwood: I’m totally pleased with this one. I played it to Lee Perry and he loves it too. This is a historic vocal from a recording he made 30 years ago. ‘Lies’ marries old and new; live playing meets tough programming. It features an amazing sax player called Paul Booth, and Pinch’s groove is great.
Pinch: This one is our big room techno banger! We wanted to make something that could work well live, and be relatively simple and stripped back, so there was room to play about with it live. Dub techno usually sounds very, very restrained – minimal and usually quite polite. We thought it might be fun to turn that combo on its head and make a dub/techno crossover track that was…well, a bit ruder.
Sherwood: We worked and re-worked this drastically until we were satisfied.
Pinch: This one is a fairly odd beast and kind of defies easy categorisation. It was a hard one to mix and finish too as there’s only a few key ingredients to the track and it’s very much about the sonic experience, one based more in texture than melody. The piano does really help to provide grounding in terms of the narrative of the track and how it develops though.
Sherwood: A twitchy Pinch classic!
7. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
Pinch: We spent 5 years working on this track. No joke! Adrian suggested doing a cover of it for the first LP and it’s definitely the track we’ve worked on the longest, having been at it ever since. There are dozens and dozens of versions of this sitting on the hard drive at On-U HQ. It’s maybe not what you expect from Sherwood & Pinch, but that’s part of the fun of it too. Such a great classic melody – we had to make sure we gave it our best shot in order to justify using it. The middle part of the track is my favourite bit and on one level represents a kind of psychedelic mini-trip; going out of consciousness and then coming back as the melody eventually returns.
Sherwood: This is our little, warped psychedelic version of the Sakamoto classic. Mark Stewart used to sing the vocal version of this live. I’ve always liked the melody.
8. Juggling Act
Pinch: Sometimes you find tracks take a lot of work and sometimes they just come effortlessly. ‘Juggling Act’ is the result of smashing two tracks together that I was originally working on at home (‘Tectonic HQ’, if you like). I had the melodic parts I liked in one track but I didn’t like the rhythm at all. I’d also started a rhythm track that I did like, but it was lacking any melody. As it was the same tempo, the parts fitted together really well and didn’t take much more work to get them to glue. Voila.
Pinch: ‘Retribution’ is a track I originally wrote and released on Loefah’s Swamp 81 imprint several years ago. Adrian liked the track too and we would sometimes play it in our live sets. Through doing this and hearing it live, we decided to re-process some of the parts in the studio and build around them to make a totally new version. I love how the long intro builds up and leads into a complete switch up when it breaks – dropping into a bouncing rubbery noise fest.
Sherwood: Another vicious, in-your-face, techno-flavoured dub track!
10. Gun Law
Pinch: This one also started life as a rhythm I built at home and had used the Junior Delgado samples on the drop from some stems Adrian had recorded for another track originally called ‘Ghetto-Ology’, which also set the tone for the title. During a Sherwood & Pinch session at Adrian’s, Taz came by as he had recently moved to Ramsgate and had just met Adrian. We played him through some of the LP tracks were we working on and he especially liked ‘Gun Law’and quickly got to work writing some lyrics. We weren’t looking to use full vocals for any tracks on the album, but also thought that Taz smashed it, so I’m really glad it worked out the way it did.
Sherwood: One of the few vocal tracks and the only specially-recorded brand new vocal on the album – by the excellent Taz. It also features the late, great Junior Delgado’s voice taken from the archive.
Man Vs. Sofa is out now via On-U Sound vs Tectonic Recordings, get it here. Sherwood & Pinch’s album launch party is March 11 at Brixton Jamm featuring Kahn & Neek and Kenny Ken, check the event and get tickets here.