Mark Stewart: Closer to the Edit

One of the last people I was expecting to have a site on MySpace was sound terrorist supreme Mark Stewart. But here he is and I was pleasantly surprised to read that he will release a new album called "Edit" in a few weeks. He will also go back on the road with his all-star band The Maffia and Adrian Sherwood.

I went out of my way to catch as many Mark Stewart/Maffia/Sherwood gigs as possible in the mid to late 80s. I was bored by pseudo-tough guys like Front 242 who tried to justify their second grade multi-media-horror-show with the lame excuse that they wanted to "force the audience to think".

When Mark Stewart and the On-U Sound was in town, you were about to get your ears ripped out of their sockets by an incredible tidal wave of techno, funk and dub. It was the sound of total audio destruction. But instead of being subjected to uninspired white-noise, you could witness as some top of the line musicians (who used to be the Sugarhill Band, and would tour with people like Mick Jagger) would play their tight set, while Adrian Sherwood would work his mixing desk to maximum effect. With his dub-phasers set on "stun", he would de-construct the elements of their music, chase them through his effects and by doing so, would create an incredibly dense and massive sound in real time.

The bottom heavy funk was held in place by incredible drummer Keith LeBlanc whose drumkit was a innovative set up of analogue and syndrums which were triggered to different samplers and more effect processors to shake two drumsticks at.

The YouTube quality can only hint at the massive sound that was unleashed. This live version of "the resistance of the cell" must have been recorded around 87/88.The audio onlaught of politics, paranoia, dub-funk, reggae and innovative sounds would leave the audience totally exhaustesd (and practically deaf for three days!). The band however seemed to have a blast and would obviously enjoy their sets.

The cherry on top were Stewarts vocals. This tall, handsome guy was working the mic as a living human sampler. His lyrics, a mixture of political agitation combined with quotes from pop, early hip-hop and literature would be shouted like a muezzin from a minaret.

This style was a direct influence for acts such as Meat Beat Manifesto, whose ambition it was to record something more extreme than "As the veneer...". Well, Meat Beat Manifesto are also about to release a new record this year. Maybe they will finally fulfill their goal this time.

Early Pop-Group poems like "We are all prostitutes/Everyone has their price/And you too will learn to live the lie/Aggression, Competition, Ambition, Consumer Fascism/Capitalism is the most barbaric of all Religions" would stand next to a stunning cover version of "Forbidden Colours" by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Jaques Brel
snippets would be shouted over the heaviest beats and feightened screams of "contagious, your love is contagious!" would meet a smashed-up Donna Summer tape-loop.

Although this kind of cut-up art would soon become standard practice, his stand out albums "As the veneer of democrazy starts to fade" and "Mark Stewart" still sound incredibly raw and original today.

With the newly found interest in all things post-punk and no-wave, a comeback of Mark Stewart is certainly most welcome.

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