TORONTO -- Ubiquitous U.K. dubmeister Adrian Sherwood is certainly on a roll these days.
You could literally see the energy ping-ponging between the members of Japan's dub-band Audio Active and DJ Sherwood at the board in the back of Lee's Palace on Saturday. This, then, was a true collaboration in real time: Art was being made in front of your eyes and ears, on the spot, and the overall effect was exhilarating.
Fresh from his mega-inspired dub-conversion of one of the year's best
albums, Primal Scream's Vanishing Point, into another of the year's best albums, Echo Dek, Sherwood has taken to the road with self-described Japanese "Space Cowboys," Audio Active, to prove without a doubt that his particular gift for inspired knob-twiddling is at its absolute apex in 1997.
Although, Audio Active was -- until the Lee Palace show at least -- an unknown
entity, it didn't seem likely that a man with Sherwood's heavyweight rep would
collaborate, much less tour, with any mere wannabes. Sure enough, after Sherwood
led things off with a spine-tingling set of dubbed-up reggae -- and incidentally,
he puts most of the other "DJs" I've seen to shame -- Audio Active took the
stage and, with Sherwood providing an expert, live dub-mix of their sound,
proceeded to blow away the refreshingly genre-nonspecific assemblage of musical
seekers with a show that virtually defined the word "eclectic."
Audio Active in many ways seem like the perfect group for the topsy-turvy age of
the oncoming millennium: A group of Japanese youths featuring an Iggy Pop-esque
singer with dyed-blond hair playing a musical mix of thunderous dub, (P)funk,
and Krautrock a la Can. In other words, no boundaries or limits are
Only a few notes into their show, these Space Cowboys had the more adventurous
members of the audience on their feet as they locked into a Can-like groove of
metronomic space-funk and set the controls for the heart of the (rising) sun for
the first of what would be a recurrent series of driving instrumentals.
These were punctuated by trips to the front of the stage by vocalist Masa the
Al-Tamyran, who, dressed in a martial arts-styled robe, prowled the stage like a
caged tiger between manic vocal turns on songs such as the sardonic "Happy
Shopper." The pumped-up tune features a Mark Stewart-penned lyric that takes aim
at consumer culture ("Yes sir/ No sir/ Have a nice day/ It shouldn't have to be
Their songs offered other agreeably skewed views on the stultification of modern
life such as in "Citizen Zombie" and "Robot War" from their latest,
Sherwood-produced album, Apollo Choco.
Still, as good as Audio Active were onstage, it was the genius of Sherwood,
bobbing and weaving like a boxer in time to the band's polyrhythmic onslaught,
sculpting their sound with echo, reverb and all manner of electronic wizardry,
that carried this show over the top.
This collaboration between the resurgent U.K.-vet and the musical up-and-comers
from Japan made for one of the most startlingly original nights of music I've
witnessed all year.
Just call 1997 "Sherwood's Year."[Fri., Dec. 12, 1997,
9 a.m. PST]