Following a DJ set by ex-Slits’ bassist Tessa Pollitt, the founder of the On-U Sound dub label played his first live set in 18 months featuring mostly unreleased tracks from artists including African Head Charge, Tackhead and Horace Andy. He also live dubbed The Ruts/Ruts DC for the first time in history.

Adrian Sherwood started the evening on some forthcoming tracks from African Head Charge, combining tribalist African music and stripped down dub and reggae with his own overdubbing using industrial drum crashes and other electronic sound effects.

Sherwood then premiered new songs released by Tackhead, reformed after a 30-year hiatus and due to headline a live show scheduled for next year – a dystopian hip-hop melody and then an industrial rap. He further mentioned forthcoming releases from a host of On-U Sound artists such as Creation Rebel and Jeb-Loy Nichols, with 2021 already seeing plenty of records out.

Ahead of Ruts DC arriving onstage, Sherwood wound down his set on Lee “Scratch” Perry with a 50-year-old track by the musician and finished with some Horace Andy. Ruts DC then began their set, kicking things off with reggae dub versions of their singles ‘Whatever We Do’ and ‘Give Youth A Chance’, Sherwood adding mixing effects throughout.

The band also performed some unreleased new songs such as a guitar and keyboard track ‘Born Innocent’ and ‘Smiling Culture’ which they built into older, rockier track ‘S.U.S’ from their 1979 debut album ‘The Crack’. Ruts DC then played ‘Love In Vain’ from their second album ‘Grin And Bear It, finishing the night on a dub version of ‘Babylon’s Burning’.

07/08/21: Adrian Sherwood + Tessa Pollitt + Ruts DC @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Words and photos © Ayisha Khan.