The world may have moved on from the classic dub and industrial records Adrian Sherwood helped sculpt in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but Sherwood himself never exactly went away. Unfortunately, his most recent solo album largely smoothes over the abrasive edges of his signature sound, resulting in something more akin to a record from the “trip-hop” days of 15 years ago. Sherwood claims to have drawn inspiration from last year’s London riots as well as the global financial crisis, but this seems more than anything else like an attempt to inject a much-needed note of relevance into an album otherwise sorely lacking in 21st century appeal.
Then again, it’s more interesting than Skrillex. Survival & Resistance works best when its beats are juxtaposed against unexpected instrumental choices like the Middle Eastern-sounding violin of “Effective” or the harmonica of “Last Queen of England”. Sherwood also gains much musical traction from the tension between the spaced-out dub atmosphere (which he could probably concoct in his sleep) and the use of melancholy, almost classical piano lines (which seem to hang in midair) on more than one track. Even if that “1997” feeling never quite goes away, the creative spirit is definitely there.