Friday, 24 December 2010

2010? What was that all about?

At the beginning of 2010 I knew what dubstep was. As I sit hear today (Christmas Eve 2010) I ain't so sure. First though, stuff that definitely is dubstep. DMZ had their first full length albums with Mala and Coki both putting one out. Mala's Return II Space was superb, 6 tracks of pure, meditative dubstep. I was almost surprised how much I enjoyed Coki's, which, like Mala's, comprised mostly of oldish dubs which will be familiar to most people who've seen Digital Mystikz play over the last few years. Some recent Coki tracks (Goblin, Horrid Henry, Road Rage) have left me feeling cold, and despite their uniquely dark and layered sound, often felt uncomfortably close to the cookie cutter 'brostep' coming mostly out of North America right now.

I'm not quite sure how dubstep got to this point, but if you go to dubstepforum these days you see a clear divide. Those who like chainsaw wobble music, and those who don't. To illustrate this point, I saw a thread on there today which posed the question 'Downlink vs Datsik'. In my eyes, their music is similar, and equally boring, but a debate quickly formed regarding the merits of these producers. The thread quickly descended into a debate about whether anybody should be listening to this music at all. I remember a few years back when every few weeks there would be a 'Caspa/Rusko/Caspa & Rusko are ruining dubstep' thread. Whilst this was silly, it might have been accurate if 'ruining' was changed for 'dividing'. Dubstep now exists in two seperate camps.

Or maybe even 3. Many great producers who used to make dubstep now make something less easy to define. Ramadanman and Headhunter (aka Addison Groove) both had great years, taking the sounds of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, and the vibe of juke/footwork and B-more, and applying it to tempos slightly below dubstep. The best examples of this to see a release so far have been Footcrab, Glut and Work Them, and Work It/Sexual is due out soon. It'll be interesting to see where this sound goes, but the ability of UK bass music to absorb styles from other parts of the world and subsequently evolve is at times exhilarating.

Never ones to be slow on new and at times odd strains of electronic music, Planet Mu put out a series of footwork EPs, LPs and compilations. Before 2010 I knew nothing of this genre, and at times the tracks seem to be hit and miss... but when the hits hit, they have the potential to destroy dances. This video shows some of the movements accompanying the scene, and giving it its name, and also contains some great music. Some non-American producers have already jumped on this scene: Afrika Hitech - Out in the Street is a banger.

Another label providing cross Atlantic links was Night Slugs. They released stuff by Kingdom (New York), Jacques Greene (Montreal) and Egyptrixx (Toronto) as well as stuff by a bunch of UK based producers, and all this in their first year as a label. Their output was as brilliant as it was prolific, releasing sixteen 12"s and one compilation CD. Some of the tunes released share little in common with one another, but the common thread seems to be the bright, almost dayglo sound of synths, often crashing, hard drum patterns and heaps of emotion. It reminds me of a Kode9 quote about making circuitry cry. Only instead of crying, the Night Slugs gang make circuits scream, weap and reminisce about the 80s.

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