Although once upon a time (namely five or so years ago) the musical collaboration between Adrian Sherwood and Rob Ellis may have seemed like a novel concept, Sherwood & Pinch have now become almost inseparable as a force of bass music. One that has, on several occasions, created something that neither would have made flying solo.
On Man Vs Sofa, the second full length album from the duo that follows 2015’s ‘Late Night Endless’, this collaborative voice is something that is more present than ever, as new angles are explored and new outcomes delivered. As Pinch himself puts it, “having spent around five years working together, our work flow has developed and improved considerably, and we both feel that the music we're making now is something neither of us could or would do alone.”
As the album commences, the opening track sound like the kind of thing you might hear being played at one of the Boxed collective’s ‘experimental’ grime nights; but for the appearance of a guitar line that brings to mind Blaxploitation-era funk and sparse, haunting piano tinklings from Primal Scream collaborator Martin Duffy (who re-emerges several times on the album).
In isolation, they are only only fleeting aspects of the song, but nonetheless the tone is set for an album where heavily layered, seemingly incompatible and rarely expected sounds sit alongside one another time and time again.
Naturally, given the pedigree of the album’s creators, the record is built on strong foundations of bass. Equally, the experimental and industrial sounds that are so pervasive should come as no surprise. But their juxtaposition and combination with jazzy instrumentation, varied rhythmic patterns and atypical influences — take the warped and distorted reworking of Ryuichi Sakmoto’s soundtrack to ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ as a prime example — is what sets each individual song apart from any other on the album, and from the work of the two creator’s individual artistic offerings.
Every track brings with it a sense of unease, uncertainty and unpredictability. Despite being two artists who are probably best known for their work in dub and dubstep, the rhythmic styles are wide-ranging, with drum patterns that at various points seem more akin to footwork, old-school electro, four-on-the-floor house, industrial techno and dancehall – even if what sits atop them does not necessarily reflect those styles.
The album definitely picks up where the previous effort left off, but delves even deeper into the left-field and draws from an ever-growing well of influences and ideas. It is this stylistic exploration that makes ‘Man Vs Sofa’ all the more intriguing and unpredictable, but simultaneously renders it slightly less accessible than the duo’s debut. That is to say it is not an album to soundtrack your commute; but for the discerning and engaged listener it will be one to revisit for repeated listens.
Words: James Kilpin
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