The return of a band who always do things their own way… Hold on, they’ve got a flute
Sit someone down, anyone, and play them a couple of Asian Dub Foundation’s umpteen long-players. Pick, say, ‘Rafi’s Revenge’ from 1998 and perhaps the Adrian Sherwood-produced ‘Enemy Of The Enemy’ from 2003. Both are shining examples of the sort of blind fury and booming basslines this lot can whip up. And that’s not to mention the plenty you get to think about lyrically.
So play your people those albums and then ask them what instrument they would least expect to hear on an ADF record? We are 16 seconds into ‘Zig Zag Nation’, the opening cut of ‘More Signal More Noise’, when it happens. A flute. A FLUTE. We were not expecting that.
But then ADF are a band who always have, always will, do things their own way. And precisely because they’re ADF, you’ll forgive them almost anything. And with Adrian Sherwood back at the controls for this outing, the forgiveness goes double.
That flute is bonkers, though. It sounds bonkers and the band even describe it as “mad flute”. It belongs to Nathan “Flutebox” Lee. In short, the man is a leading proponent of beatboxing… while playing a flute. Like either of those skills aren’t quite enough on their own. It is actually surprisingly entertaining watching him do it. YouTube is your friend here, people. “Nathan’s like the Jimi Hendrix of the flute,” claims ADF mainstay Chandrasonic and who are we to argue?
We’ve seen very regular ADF releases since 1995’s ‘Fact And Fictions’ debut, but ‘More Signal More Noise’ marks the return of original members Dr Das on bass and Rocky Singh on drums. Vocalist Ghetto Priest also gets in on the reunion for the first time in a decade. Recorded in three days and mixed in the same amount of time, the album has a fresh vibrancy about it, a boys-are-back-in-town completeness.
The flute dances over those unmissable taut ADF rhythms. On ‘Blade Ragga’, it stabs all jaggedy and swirls, like a soloing guitar, only more like a nightingale. There it is again on ‘Radio Bubblegum’, a song whose chorus we’ve not been able to shake for days.
It’s not just about the flute, of course. ‘The Signal And The Noise’ is a ferocious bhangra racket, ‘Samira’ has the brilliant Adrian Sherwood at his finest echo-and-reply best, carving out a delicious mellow groove, and ‘Stand Up’ is dub reggae east London style. ‘Hovering’ is that long-awaited bhangra/flute crossover and ‘Flyover 2015’ is trademark ADF, unpacking the synths and high-speed ragga MCing over full tilt breaks.
So while the whole ADF with a flute thing offers up plenty of cheap Jethro Tull gags, it is still ADF. It’s their wont, always has been, always will be. Are we the richer for hearing it? We are. We always are.