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Various Artists Trevor Jackson's Science Fiction Dancehall Classics On U-Sound


On-U Sound is a massively important label for British music. In the early 80s, label boss and producer Adrian Sherwood positioned On-U as the conduit between the sonic experiments of Jamaican dub and the nascent post-punk/experimental scene.

The political context couldn’t have been less hospitable. Thatcher, realising culture could provide fertile grounds for dissent, slashed public funding for the arts. Instead, celeb-worship was encouraged in an attempt to warp ‘culture’ to fit their marketised worldview, one where worthiness was determined solely by economic utility. This release, compiled by the ever-esoteric Trevor Jackson, demonstrates the sheer breadth and ambition of an avowedly avant-garde label, one that eschewed the flattening blandness (but lucrative success) of contemporary pop.

While most of the artists picked are unfamiliar, there are a couple of early works from big names. Neneh Cherry lends her vocals in expressive, up-down 80s rap manner to electro work out Dead Come Alive, and Shara Nelson (who later sung on Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphony) & The Circuit’s Aiming At Your Heart is worth the price alone. Elsewhere, a track ID query for Theo Parrish fans is solved in African Head Charge’s Stebeni’s Theme, and there’s a surprisingly italo version of Atmosfear’s When Tonight Is Over. Most of these tracks were avant-garde when they were made, and remain so now. This is exciting, oppositional music demanding of respect – and for the most part, worthy of it.