One of the delights of Pinch and Sherwood‘s 2015 début LP together, Late Night Endless, was the way in which the pair remixed, re-purposed and relocated choice elements from On-U Sound‘s extensive back catalogue into a freshly updated variation on a reggae-heavy dubstep theme. The only downside, if it can really be called that, was the nagging sense of familiarity that this lent the album. So while it was largely successful, there was still an element of playing spot the sample that accompanied each listen; again, no bad thing, but a little bit of a distraction nonetheless.On Man vs Sofa, one option offered is to sit back, relax and let the soft furnishings rise up and absorb some of that bass, because the dynamic range duo have upped the ante considerably here. But heavyweight frequently doesn’t even begin to cover the ear- and viscera-bashing that they dole out, whether pumping in dancefloor-friendly boomers such as “Unlearn”, “Juggling Act” or “Retribution” that drag the flesh — willing or otherwise — bodily from that so-inviting lounge furniture, or in more (though far less frequently this time around) reggiefied style when Lee Perry drops some pearls of high-grade wisdom on “Lies”.
The album’s most peculiar moment comes with the so very Eighties synth drips of “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”, Ryuchi Sakamoto‘s haunting tune thoroughly rinsed out and quite radically eviscerated — it’s an odd moment, perhaps even a little jarring, but actually seems to make some kind of dub sense after all. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, “Gun Law” deploys some fierce vox from Taz in stupefyingly dread style, stepping right up alongside The Bug‘s two seminal anthems of dope, guns and fucking up the streets “Skeng” and “Jah War” for both its sense of righteous menace and gothic dubstep groove. It’s a powerful way to end the album (on CD, at least — it’s the middle track of the fourth side of the vinyl edition), and one which stands out as a shudderingly effective highlight.In some senses, Late Night Endless felt like an On-U album under the influence of Tectonic; Man vs Sofa restores some balance to the equation, perhaps leaning more towards Pinch’s style of mix and miasma than to Sherwood’s — at least on the surface. Where that album’s many easy reference points could lead to occasional bouts of semi-nostalgic head-nodding familiarity, Man vs Sofa comes across as an all-new joint exploration in a stipped-back trip around the mixing desk. Martin Duffy‘s haunted piano drifts in and out from time to time, while Skip MacDonald supplies occasional melodies here, there and otherwhere becoming grist to Sherwood and Pinch’s insatiable hunger for sounds to mangle, drop and rewind.
Deep down — and sometimes this record goes very low and lumbering without becoming plodding — the interaction between the two producers has evolved a considerable degree, become in many ways more fluid and taking on its own collective personality. So while their first LP together was a hugely enjoyable romp through the possibilities that dub has in the past and still offers, this second outing manages to be both newly minted and a satisfying progression into more abstracted dimensions of sound.