WARNING: The following post contains extensive ranting and the sustained use of pretentious and nonsensical metaphor. It hasn't been proof-read either.
Has anyone else been to the cinema recently and been subjected to that awful fucking advert for Radio 1 where all their DJs are stood around on the set of Tron talking about how much they love DNB and Indie? The best bit about it is when they're all saying their names in placid, don't-mind-me voices and Westwood holds his big money-grabbing arms out and screams ''WESTWOOOOOOOOOD!'' They should replace the THX sound tone with a clip of Westwood screaming his own surname. They should also replace the projection screen with the cold lifeless eyes of Jo Whiley.
Radio 1 does occasionally come good though, usually on the brief weekly occasion when Mary Anne Hobbes show is on and we don't have to listen to The Hoosiers and Duffy for two hours. Last night, as anyone reading this blog (i.e. ME) is bound to know already, Dubstep Warz part 2: ''Generation Bass'' was something to make you feel your license fee is going into something even greater than making Graham Norton rich, or helping Jeremy Clarkson to launch a Ford Escort into the mouth of an active volcano.
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Like a lot of other people I didn't really know much about dubstep before I heard the first Dubstep Warz. I used to enjoy pushing dubstep heads around - giving them wedgies, posting them outside Breakin Science, that sort of thing. If I saw a dubstep DJ on the beach, sharing time with their sexy girlfriend, I'd sidle over, kick sand in their face and then steal and step on their spectacles. However, that all changed after my cutting-edge instincts led me, via a friend of mine telling me repeatedly again and again to download and listen to it instead of the DJ Friction @ Da Best of British 2006 with MCs Scrappy Doo and Clegnatty set I was planning on downloading that day, to downloading and listening to the seminal two hour showcase of the UK's freshest sound.
Two years later and the freshness seems to have disappeared. Listening to dubstep every day, going to loads of dubstep nights, hearing every single permutation of wobble known to man has made me see dubstep as about as changeable as the back of my own hand. And, like the back of my own hand, I've often thought: ''There must be music funkier, more soca-y, more centered around the vocal appreciation of playing Bongos, than THIS''. The raw, minimal, dread-infused sounds of Dubstep Warz has become in the process something to look back on with a combination of melancholic yearning and smug, sod-off-Grandad superiority. The aesthetic that drew me in back then - one based around empty, echo filled spaces ripe for face/wall-at-FWD huggers to hide or slip into a waking coma in, razor-sharp drums, a skunky swagger/shudder, has given way to a new aesthetic more akin to a grenade going off at a Linkin Park concert (a pleasing mental image but not intended to be particularly complimentary), or to the sound of Prog House farting vigorously in a plastic chair.
[Yes, everytime I was complaining about dubstep not being like it was in 2005 Youngsta sets, what I actually meant to complain about was dubstep not being like it was in 2006 on Radio 1. But you see, if I'd said Radio 1 they'd have chucked me out of FWD with a yellowing picture of David Pearce stapled to my shoulder.]
Last night's show was a bit of an eye/ear opener for me in a funny way. Despite listening to this music constantly for those intervening years, I don't think I've really been aware of how rapidly and surreally it's been moving along. There definitely IS a new aesthetic dominating things now, and its one that has at least some foundation in the very ultra-wobbly mid-range-slobbily RJD2-gangbang-beats that I've found myself intensely bored with ever since Spongebob came out. Spongebob itself, while by no means my ''Favouritist Bassline House And Garage Tune In the World 2007'' (compilation out soon on Ministry), is undeniably a dubstep club classic. People love it. In fact, they love it so much that either they a) go off and make their own versions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of it b) play other peoples' versions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of it or c) demand that the DJ plays versions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of it or else they'll go somewhere where their demand for constant spaz-out music is more catered for - say, a 24 hour Gabba marathon in a squat, or at a Hospital Records night.
But the dominance of printer-jam synths in last night's show what I am talking about is almost definitely as much a product of the cluster of ''my synth sounds more like a rapist breathing than yours'' experiments as it is of more tasteful or credible sources such as Sa-Ra, Grime, Bassline etc.** Of course it's more complicated than that in origin, and quite frankly since I usually blog about what my testicles taste like if they're dipped in pickle and wrapped in Honey Roast Ham I'm not going to get into it. The important thing is that a style of dubstep which I've had little time for over the past year has helped to usher in a BRAND NEW (or at least, it would appear that way if you hadn't listened to anything between 2006 and 2008) aesthetic of wonky shock-therapy insanity*... and it's GOOD.
Dubstep used to be about holding back a bit - nowadays there's a whole side of it which is about holding NOTHING back. Even the most violent and abrasive beats on Dubstep Warz (Vex'd, Distance) had a feel of tension and stealth to them. Distance himself, in his introduction to a Cyrus set that showcased Distance tunes as headbangingly (adjective from the dictionary of Ned Flanders, there) upfront and relentless as ''V'', talked about how Cyrus was preserving a style of dubstep - not made purely for the dancefloor and with space to mentally manouevre in - that has largely disappeared. I didn't really hear that in some of the (and this is the only word really) gnarlier tunes Cyrus played, but in other tunes (''Space Cadet'' by the man himself in particular) I could. I suppose a 15 minute long set is as short as a 15 minute wank is long, and given the competition the urge for a DJ is probably towards absolutely smashing it.
Besides which he was following a whole bunch of insanely energetic sets - Quest and Silkie started things off on a rhythmic high and there wasn't really a drop off in intensity after that (though Kulture and Chef both played some nice deep tunes - Martyn's RMX of Fly Lo's Roberta Flack stands out in memory). That's the thing with this new, bursting-at-the-gills style - the beats are often full-on or fucked up too. Married to a workaday half-step, wonky basslines - no matter how fucked up - are just boring, like watching a lunatic eat their own plops in a rubber room. Given a suitably lively rhythmic accompianment, though, and it becomes something far more animated and life-affirming, like watching a lunatic throw their plops at the windscreens of passing cars.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in the set by the ^ genius-like Joker's ^ barn-storming, brain-rodeoing, grin-muscle-tautening set. Throwing down stuff by himself, Gemmy and Rustie amongst others, Joker conclusively proved that there's life in the old dub yet - if you can even call tunes like his insane year 3000 RNB remix of 2000F and JKamata's ''You Don't Know What Love Is'' dubstep anymore (and who cares if you can't?). Joker, Rustie and 'em don't make music that's just superficially twisted - their beats are FUCKED to the core. There's a looseness and sense of things just about holding together which makes their music genuinely exciting and puts me in mind of a huge robot-eyed engine shuddering while someone in a hardhat and overall screams ''Look out! It's about to blowwwww!'' Not only that, but there's some unashamedly melodius and sickly-sweet hooks being pumped out of this malfunctioning Bertha that give a feel of RNB being filtered through a new and alien template - which is the same sort of thing I got from Dubstep Warz back in 2006, when each producer seemed to be using the dubstep sound in order to recontextualise, fuse and appropriate their own influences.
Blah blah blah - basically, Joker made me wish I could stretch my arm both across to London and back in time to wheel up pretty much everything he dropped. Which was nice. Philadelphia bad-man Starkey was on a similar redoinktheclownulously mangled tip, and also killed it.
After those two it was quite a relief when Chef decided to drop some deepness, and it was also noteworthy that the (by 2006 standards) completely fucked up Coki tune 'Robotnik' that Chefal finished with sounded almost pedestrian in comparison. Coki is of course a don, and he led where a lot of others have followed, but just as when other producers copied his style after 'Haunted' and 'Tortured', his tunes have suffered to my ears because of the size of their influence.
But that influence has been as good for the music as bad for it in some ways, and although after the Maida Vaile orgy of synth-sirens and bass-nukes had finished I was kinda longing for a bit of ''Ruffage'' style minimalism (international face of Foot Locker and Marks + Spencers DJ Oneman - who also smashed it, kicking off with an itchy wonkywookie tune by Brackles - played ''Midnight'' but was also playing quite a lot of 2008 niceness), I could also see clearly the benefits that moving away from 2006's sound has had on the music and on the music that it bleeds and feeds into.
So now when I'm grumbling like a GRANDdad to young post-Mercury music awards whippersnappers about how things aren't as good as they were in the olden tymes, I can say original and incisive things like ''What happened to all the pitch-bent synths?'' and ''This doesn't even sound like Dr Who's Robot-Dog choking on a football!'' before I shuffle off to the smoking area to smoke some traditional dubstepper's ketamine and speed.
Best use of my license fee money since Planet Earth filmed that bat dying in a hill of cockroaches and shit IMO.
T/L as follows:
Recorded live at Maida Vale, hosted by Mary Anne Hobbs & MC Sgt Pokes
Rustie - 'Jagz The Smack' (Stuff)
Silkie & Quest… chosen by Mala
Conquest – ‘Stand’ (Deep Medi)
Silkie – ‘Dam 4’ (Soul Jazz)
Conquest – ‘Hard Food’ (Ase)
Silkie – ‘Test’ (Dubplate)
Conquest – ‘Last Dayz’ (Dubplate)
Conquest – ‘The Seafront’ (Deep Medi)
Silkie – ‘The Horizon’ (Dubplate)
Silkie & Mizzbeats – ‘Purple Love’ (Dubplate)
Conquest – ‘The Unknown’ (Dubplate)
Kulture… chosen by Skream
Kulture –‘Diesel’ (Disfigured Dubz)
Kulture –‘Steppin’ Outta Babylon’ (Dubplate)
Kulture – ‘Spooked’ (Dubplate)
Kulture – ‘Vitamin D’ (Dubplate)
Kulture feat. Ghost 1 – ‘Purple’ (Promo)
Kulture – ‘Rock The Boat’ (Bootleg)
Kulture – ‘Tonight’ (Dubplate)
Late – ‘Misty Morning (Kulture Remix) (Dubplate)
Joker & MC Nomad… chosen by Kode 9
Joker – ‘Stuck In The System’ (Earwax)
2000F & JKamata – ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ joker special (Dubplate)
Joker & Rustie – ‘Play Doe’ (Kapsize)
Gemmy – ‘Double Yellow’ (Dubplate)
MR E – ‘Space Invaders’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Tempered’ (Kapsize)
Joker – ‘80's’ (Kapsize)
Joker – ‘Gully Brook Lane’ (Terrorhythm)
J@kes & Joker – ‘3K Lane’ (H.E.N.C.H)
Joker – ‘Holly Brook Park’ (Kapsize)
Gemmy – ‘Back 2 The Future’ (Punch drunk)
Joker – ‘Snake Eater’ (Soul motive)
Starkey… chosen by Vex’d
Starkey –‘Gutter Music (Keysound / Planet Mu)
Starkey – ‘Striking Distance’ (Planet Mu)
Starkey – ‘Pictures’ (Planet Mu)
Graphic feat. Beans – ‘ I am Metal’ (Starkey remix) (Offshore)
Starkey – ‘Pressure’ (Planet Mu)
Starkey – ‘Dark Alley’ (Planet Mu)
MOVES!!! – ‘All Skate’ (Dubplate)
Starkey – ‘Miracles’ (Planet Mu)
Styles P feat. Swizz Beats – ‘Blow Ya Mind’ (Starkey Remix) (Seclusiasis)
Starkey – ‘Spacewalk’ (Planet Mu)
Chef… chosen by Hatcha
Mr Lager & Alys Blaze – ‘Tell Me’ (Sub Freq)
LD + Clue Kid –‘Not Gonna Cry’ (Ringo)
Geoim feat. Marita – ‘Reminiscin’(Berkane Sol)
LD & Kode 9 – ‘Bad’ (Hyperdub)
Flying Lotus feat. Dolly – ‘Roberta Flack’ (Martyn’s Heart Beat mix) (Warp)
Clue Kid – ‘Monkey Style’(Subbalicious)
Cotti – ‘Calm Down’ (Bassface)
Kutz & Benga – ‘I’ll Kut Ya’ (Dubplate)
Coki - ‘Robotnik’ (Dubplate)
Oneman… chosen by Loefah
Brackles – ‘Get A Job (VIP)’ (Applepips)
Loefah – Midnight’ (Dubplate)
Toasty – ‘Lickable’ (Dubplate)
Point B – ‘E Blade’ (Combat Recordings)
Mala – ‘Forgive’ (Deep Medi)
Groove Chronicles – ‘Stone Cold’ (White Label)
Darkstar – ‘Aidy’s Girl is a Computer’ (Hyperdub)
Cyrus… chosen by Distance
Cyrus & Distance – ‘Violate’ (RTP005)
Cyrus – ‘Decisions’ (Dubplate)
Cyrus – ‘Night After’ (Dubplate)
Cyrus & Distance – ‘Surrender’ (Dubplate)
Cyrus – ‘Space Cadet’ (Dubplate)
Distance – ‘Magnesium’ (Dubplate)
LL - 'Out The Club' (Dubplate)
* as per usual I'm stealing from Kode 9 here, his description of Joker beats as inducing something like a ''collective electric shock on the dancefloor'' was absolutely jizz-worthy.
** not playing down the influence of grime here btw. Please don't tell me to suck my mum, because I'm very impressionable, and I'd jump off a cliff and land in my mum's glosh if somebody told me to do it.
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