Five full records of work from this groundbreaking group – all packaged in a single set! First up is the self-titled New Age Steppers album – the first album on the On-U Sound label, and one of the first true moments of brilliance from producer Adrian Sherwood – the start of a great legacy to come! The group and Sherwood draw inspiration from Jamaican rhythms, but are much more in a post-punk style here than in later years – maybe no surprise, given that the lineup features members of The Slits, Raincoats, and Flying Lizards, plus work from Mark Stewart and Steve Beresford too! There's also help from some UK reggae talents too – Style Scott, Crucial Tony, and George Oban – and Sherwood has a way of making all these many sounds come together with a style that's still completely compelling all these many years later. Titles include "Fade Away", "Crazy Dreams And High Ideals", "Animal Space", "Radial Drill", "Abderhamne's Demise", and "Love Forever". Next is Action Battlefield – a set that does key work in building a bridge between Jamaican roots and the growing UK underground! Sure, there had been plenty of other experiments during the early punk years – but here, Adrian Sherwood's really finding his groove – and making music that has a mostly dub/
reggae core, yet which also picks up some of the darker, moodier elements that had been brewing up in groups like Pop Group and Public Image! Ari Up of The Slits handles a lot of the vocals here, and a young Neneh Cherry
makes her recording debut as well – on titles that include "Got To Get Away", "Observe Life", "Problems", "Nuclear Zulu", "Guiding Star", and "My Whole World". Foundation Steppers is an even more reggae-styled record than before from The New Age Steppers – a set that has the group recording in Jamaica for the first time, with lots of guest vocals from Bim Sherman – yet still getting those nice moody currents from producer Adrian Sherwood too! The mixture of Bim's vocals and those of ex-Slits Ari Up provide a really nice balance here – and overall, the sound is more Kingston than London – but with more than enough appeal to bridge both scenes at once. Eskimo provides some electric percussion next to the drums of Style Scott – and titles include "Some Love", "Memories", "5 Dog Race", "Misplaced Love", "Dreamers", "Stabilizer", "Stormy Weather", "Vice Of My Enemies", and "Mandarin". Love Forever is later work from New Age Steppers, but a set that's very much got the spirit of the group at the core – given that it's essentially a collaboration between Ari Up and producer Adrian Sherwood – who were the key forces behind the group's sound at the start! In fact, the feel here is still strongly early 80s – maybe mid-80s, given some of the production elements – and in addition to lots of instruments handled by Ari, the set also features guitar and keyboards from the mighty Skip McDonald and tenor from Dave Flash Wright – all with a sound that's nice and spare, and which really keeps the New Age edge intact! Titles include "Musical Terrorist", "The Fury Of Ari", "Wounded Animal", "Last Times", "Death Of Trees", "Revelation", "Worst Of Me", and "Conquer". Last up is Avant Gardening – a fantastic collection of unreleased material from the early years of New Age Steppers – sounds that are even darker and dubbier than the tracks on their first few albums! The studio genius of Adrian Sherwood is in full effect here – as most tunes are full of all the weird and wild production elements he was so good at – inspired by all the Kingston studio pioneers of the 70s, but filtered through the more experimental qualities of the early 80s post-punk years in London – at a level that makes On U Sounds like this every bit as important as the work of Factory Records! The set features a straighter vocal tune – the group's take of "Send For Me", pulled from a Peel Session – plus more moody material that includes "Singing Love", "I Scream (rimshot)", "Some Dub", "World Wide Version", "Unclear", and "Italize".