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The studio collective centred around the musical partnership of Adrian Sherwood and Ari Up from The Slits, New Age Steppers existed on and off from 1980 to 2012. Notable for bringing together musicians from the post-punk and reggae scenes together, their records feature contributions from members of The Pop Group, The Raincoats, Flying Lizards, Roots Radics, Aswad and Creation Rebel and launching the influential On-U Sound label with their debut album and single.
Including the 3 classic studio albums New Age Steppers - the seminal post-punk/dub release featuring versions of Junior Byles Fade Away with The Slits Ari Up on vocals as well as Vivien Goldman and Mark Stewart. Falling somewhere between a late night studio session at Channel One and the kinds of experimental soundscapes being explored at the time by Industrial Records. Action Battlefield followed in 81’ with more radical interpretations of reggae imports by Bim Sherman, Horace Andy and B.B. Seaton. Peeling back the experimental and revealing their more immediate centre, Action Battlefield finds New Age Steppers open up to the potentialities of pop.
Foundation Steppers arrived in 1983 and marked a sea change in approach, a warmer sounding record than the two thrilling-but-abrasive LPs that had preceded it. Recorded at the legendary Studio One before Ari Up brought the tapes back to the UK for Adrian Sherwood to work on. Expertly produced with a playful and experimental approach toward both genres, Foundation Steppers is a perfect entry point for the uninitiated exploring the punky reggae party.
Also featured here is Love Forever which was released posthumously in 2021 consisting of tunes recorded by legendary dub producer Adrian Sherwood and Ari-Up, who sadly passed away two years before its release. The LP sees the collective project deliver some of their tried-and-tested post-punk-dub-reggae amalgams (in particular on the outrageous German-language tongue-in-cheek of ‘The Scheisse Song’) alongside a burgeoning fascination in EDM and dancehall — at least a few years before it went mainstream in the UK in the latter’s case. Updating the London / Jamaica alliance with modern influences of artists treading the same path such as Atari Teenage Riot or Le Tigre. But where the LP gets strangely moving is in the no-nonsense punk rage of ‘My Nerves’, a fitting tribute to the project’s late vocalist which brings the project full circle to its DIY roots.
A new album of rare outtakes and rarities Avant Gardening completes the set, with highlights pulled from the vaults including Atlantic Starr’s Send For Me taken from the 1983 John Peel session and Chaka Khan’s Some Love. It might be trite to call project masterminds Ari-Up and Adrian Sherwood utopian, but if these heyday-spanning cuts prove one thing, they certainly had their eyes seton a promised land.
DISC5 contains one bonus track not on the vinyl version
Digital Track List
- 1 Fade Away 5:36
- 2 Radial Drill 4:31
- 3 State Assembly 6:20
- 4 Crazy Dreams And High Ideals 5:45
- 5 Abderhamane's Demise 3:50
- 6 Animal Space 5:41
- 7 Love Forever 7:25
- 8 Private Armies 4:51
- 9 My Whole World 5:23
- 10 Observe Life 5:17