To fans of U.K. bass music culture, the idea of a collaboration between legendary dub/post-punk producer Adrian Sherwood and dubstep originator Pinch (Rob Ellis) sounds like a recipe for pure soundsystem devastation. After Pinch invited Sherwood to DJ at London super-club Fabric in 2012, the duo released two singles in 2013, followed by the 2015 full-length Late Night Endless, which had moments of brilliance but was somewhat uneven overall. However, their 2017 follow-up, the amazingly titled Man vs. Sofa, is nothing less than a supernova. Here, the duo have honed their sound into something trippy and experimental yet deadly precise and direct. This is futuristic dub that sounds tense and paranoid rather than sluggish and laid-back. The tracks manage to be sophisticated and heavily detailed, filled with twisted edits and intricate beats, while still maintaining a spacious aura. The basslines are distorted and alarming, and Sherwood's dub effects are some of the most brutal he's produced in ages. Yet it avoids getting too dark or overbearing thanks to graceful piano melodies played by Martin Duffy (Primal Scream, Felt) and multi-instrumentalist Skip McDonald (Tackhead, Little Axe). Lee "Scratch" Perry makes a stately, profound cameo on "Lies," and a cover of Ryuichi Sakamoto's classic theme to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence appears during the album's second half, combining its timeless keyboard melody with inventive beats and mutated effects. On the darker side, there are chilling tracks like "Unlearn," which features hair-raising echo, sinister samples, and storming 4/4 techno beats. "Charger" and "Itchy Face" both have jittery beats hinting at the influence of Chicago footwork. There are also moments that descend into pure madness, such as when the ring modulation-heavy beat drops 90 seconds into "Retribution." Aside from Perry's cameo, the only other track to feature vocals is the fiery dancehall/grime track "Gun Law," which balances fierce verses by London MC Taz with atmospheric synths and dub pressure. Every single moment of Man vs. Sofa is suspenseful and exciting.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson