New Age Steppers / Avant Gardening / On-U Sound

This new collection takes its title from a track that made its debut as an exclusive on a “Japan Only” CD. The loose-limbed, melodica groove of Avant Gardening was one of the bonuses “gifted” to guys and dolls lucky enough to land a copy of Beat Records` super limited 2003 deluxe edition of The New Age Steppers. These fortunate folks would have also found themselves in possession of Izalize and May I – both of which are, in addition, included here. The former throwing twisted funky organ shapes over distant drums. Its `60s spy theme, Mission Impossible, vibes given a dynamic like Derrick Harriott`s shake of Shaft, The Skatalites Fugitive Dub meets Roy Budd. 

The core of the compilation is actually archival material previously only available in Japan – with Unclear – a creaking dub of My Guiding Star that`s consumed by crashing cymbals – and Wide World Version being lifted from Beat Records` 2004 reissue of Action Battlefield. 

All of this is now up for grabs in the west, with the majority of it seeing vinyl for the first time. The exceptions being Aggro Dub Version – which was released on a rare –  Japanese again – 10”, while Ari Up`s by turns operatic and animal I Scream (Rimshot) – vacuum pumping in place of a percussive Nyabinghi subtracted – and the cool toast, Singing Love,  graced the original Statik 7 and 12” discomix of Love Forever. Send For Me is a fresh discovery. The vocal too tame to be Ari. It might be Denise – definitely delivered though under Ms. Up`s tutelage. 

I’ve seen that some have complained that there`s little on Avant Gardening that`s actually “new” – forgetting that this music was only readily within reach in the land of the rising sun. I`m stating the obvious here, but many, even die-hard, On-U fans – save a chosen few – won`t have heard it, and certainly don’t own it. The remastering – as with last year’s African Head Charge retrospective – highlights the sweet sound-effects and fine, flickering, higher frequencies. The supreme separation on isolated piano keys. Hallucinatory harpsichord notes. The ringing washes of echo and delay. When, on Aggro Dub Version, someone shouts “Hit the deck!”, a hitherto hidden UFO lifts off. 

On-U Sound have remastered and are reissuing New Age Steppers entire back catalogue. You can learn more over at Bandcamp and Bleep.

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