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Epic Sound Battles Chapter 1

Playgroup

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Album Review

Of all the acts with whom Adrian Sherwood worked during the late '70s/early '80s, few have been so cruelly overlooked as Playgroup, a studio collective built along similar lines to the New Age Steppers, who were responsible for two of the most eclectic albums in the catalog. The musicians themselves were familiar members of the On-U collective: Bruce Smith, Sean Oliver, Charlie Eskimo Fox, Nick Plytas, Style Scott, Steve Beresford, "Deadly Headley" Bennett, John Waddington, Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, and George Oban all feature across the two Playgroup albums, both of which (as its title suggests) are combined onto this single disc. The music, for the most part, is the heavy, scratchy dub for which Sherwood is best known, haunting effects-riven instrumentals with the power to shake the solidest walls. But enough variables are shot through the brew to ensure that period critics had a hell of a time trying to categorize the music. "Deep and Mintyful," with its spectral spy theme bassline, is straightforward enough. But the worldbeat rhythms and chants of "Crunch" could have been formulated during the sessions for the S**ts' second album, and "Epic One" was a mystery, unfolding around a stupendously crunchy drum pattern. And so on. Indeed, Beresford's liner notes for this compilation only amplify the confusion surrounding Playgroup's motives when he cautions, "If you happen to be reading this sleeve in a record shop then don't worry too much about putting it back exactly where you found it. You can put it in any rack."

Epic Sound Battles Chapter 1, Playgroup
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