Thursday, November 22, 2018

Album Review: Dub Syndicate - Displaced Masters (2017)

The On-U Sound vaults are vast and deep. We already know this. Over the years we’ve seen dozens upon dozens of examples of those vaults being explored and excavated, be it to remaster or reissue past work, or to exhume unheard or previously shelved material in the name of a brand new album. Adrian Sherwood and his team are masters in the art of digging deep into the label’s archives in order to access the good stuff. And there’s an awful lot of good stuff. The sort of work that many other labels would have been only too happy to release in its original form years ago.

In the case of Dub Syndicate’s Displaced Masters - released at the tail end of 2017 - it’s a case of returning to the master tapes and out-takes of some of that collective’s best known work. Releasing it here in all of its stripped, raw, and unfussy glory. And of all the artists to grace On-U Sound across the decades, Dub Syndicate are/were perhaps the most prolific, so if you’re a fan of the label, you’ll likely have heard the enhanced (previously released) versions of most of this album’s material before. What we get here are the alternate dubs and tunes from the first four Dub Syndicate albums in their naked and purest forms. 

Tunes like ‘Haunted Ground’ which became ‘Haunting Ground’ upon its eventual release. Featuring, of course, the late great Bim Sherman. Or ‘All Other Roads Are Shut Off’, which morphed into ‘No Alternative (But To Fight)’, featuring Dr Pablo (and Maggie Thatcher). Indeed, check out Dr Pablo’s ‘Red Sea Dub’, the stripped back slice of melodica heaven which closes proceedings here - the finished product having featured on his acclaimed 1984 collaborative effort with Dub Syndicate, North of the River Thames. 

Displaced Masters won’t appeal to all. It’s fascinating for fans of the label to hear these tracks in their most rudimentary forms, great for fans of Dub Syndicate, and Sherwood completists, but it will, by definition, hold less appeal for non converts. That’s the nature of a beast like this. Some might even call it the dreaded (no pun) acquired taste, given that most of it showcases Sherwood’s production at its most experimental, and right at the very start of a steep learning trajectory. 

Personally, I’m a real sucker for this stuff, and Displaced Masters is yet another worthy addition to my already rather extensive On-U Sound collection. 

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