Music

Coldcut x On-U Sound: Outside the Echo Chamber

Legendary producers team with a stellar slate of guests to show just how much they've influenced modern music.


Coldcut x On-U Sound

Outside the Echo Chamber

Label: Ninja Tune
Release Date: 2017-05-19
Amazon
iTunes

To anyone familiar with the history of British indie music, Coldcut and On-U Sound are legendary names.

On-U Sound, the brainchild of producer Adrian Sherwood, spent several decades innovating hip-hop, dub, and industrial music, often mixing the genres together. Sherwood and Coldcut's Jon More were mates at technical college. Largely inspired by On-U Sound, More and Matt Black founded Coldcut in the mid-'80s and pioneered the use of sampling in pop and dance music. One of their early sample-heavy tracks was itself sampled by M/A/R/R/S on their groundbreaking 1987 single "Pump Up the Volume". Black and XXX went on to found the Ninja Tune label, effectively inventing "trip-hop" and "sampledelic" styles. Furthermore, Coldcut and On-U Sound created classic remixes for everyone from Eric B. & Rakim to Depeche Mode.

Both have been relatively quiet of late, but that does not make the prospect of a collaborative album any less exciting. And, in sort, Outside the Echo Chamber delivers the goods. It draws on Coldcut's and Sherwood's strengths, compounding them and adding a modern touch. If it isn't groundbreaking itself, it is a fun, eclectic reminder of just how much these artists influenced so much of the music you hear on the radio and in the clubs these days.

In keeping with their long-established traditions, for Outside the Echo Chamber, Coldcut and Sherwood have brought in an international slate of guests, many of them familiar faces. Reggae legends Junior Reid and Lee "Scratch" Perry make appearances, as does veteran British rapper Roots Manuva. Jamaican singers Chezidek and Ce 'Cile, Indian singer Hamsika Iyer, American singer Elan Atias, British producer Toddla T, and Jamaican rapper Rholin X all contribute. And holding down the entire rhythm-driven affair are original On-U Sound bassist Doug Wimbish and guitarist Skip McDonald.

What is impressive is this cast of musicians collectively spans nearly 60 years of music history, from Perry's reggae and dub productions to Wimbish and McDonald's work with the pioneering hip-hop label Sugarhill to Ninja Tune to Toddla T's remixes for Hot Chip and Armand Van Helden. A pedigree like this sets expectations high, though, and none of it would matter if the music were less-than-exceptional.

No worry, though. Outside the Echo Chamber takes reggae, dub, dancehall, hip-hop, pop, and more and mixes it into a beat-driven, never-dull experience. On opener "Livid", Manuva delivers a typically ominous state-of-the-word address over a twisted dubstep beat full of the zinging, zanging sound effects you would expect from Sherwood. Reid croons and Perry delivers his trademark non-sequiturs over the apocalyptic dub of "Divide and Rule". More pop-friendly moments come in the form of the rocksteady 2016 single "Everyday Another Sanction", featuring Chezidek, and the melancholic dancehall of "Make Up Your Mind", delivered in hers 'n' his versions with Ce' Cile and Atias respectively.

There is plenty of exotic strangeness, too, in the form of a trio of instrumentals. Full of syncopated rhythms, quirky melodic snippets, and dissonant industrial effects, they allow Coldcut and Sherwood to cut loose and indulge their whims, especially on the twisted dancehall of "Aztec Riddim". Another relative surprise is "Kajra Mohobbat Walla", featuring Iyer. Opening with a clever Liberace sample, it turns into a trancelike Indian number complete with traditional instruments. Of course, the producers add some zany electronic effects, too.

At ten songs, Outside the Echo Chamber favors efficient quality over sprawling indulgence. None of them fall flat, with only the Rholin X-led "Robbery" struggling a bit with a trap hip-hop feel. Also, there are echoing, thundering dub versions of half a dozen tracks. Not surprisingly, they are stellar and tastefully done.

For many, Outside the Echo Chamber should serve as a timely invitation to the pioneering work of its producers. For others, it represents yet another high point in a pair of legendary careers. In any case, it's an irie time for all.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Music

10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Books

'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.

Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.