DISCLAIMER: It's been a while since my last stream of ponderous + inchoate bullshit regarding music (see Generation Bass post) and I'd just like to say that I didn't write any of this. Prince Philip did, after he cut the brakes on the Mercedes... also, if I DID write it I didn't plan to, and forgot all about it while I was doing it. So blaming me for this is a bit like blaming somebody for blacking out and murdering their family with a hammer. Fundamentally wrong.
Funky isn't having the same effect on me that dubstep did when I first heard it. When I first got into dubstep (after the rote “this is really slow and boring” feeling that all ex-DNB heads must go through) I was constantly taken aback by tunes – ''what the fuck is this?'' was a regular response, and the generalised response to the genre was one of scarcely reluctant ascent. Having got into DNB through its somewhat diluted and conventionalised modern form, and then latterly having discovered the musical heights of 90s jungle (from rough and rugged 93 post-hardcore to 96 'intelligent' proto-DNB: Photek, Source Direct – all that highly sculptured but still unstable, slightly nebulous jungle – i.e. 'Black Rose' by Hokusai), I felt like I was discovering the ''Jungle of the KEANE/SEPTEMBER11ATTACKS/REALITYTV GENERATION!!!''. Of course it wasn't really that, but I did at least manage to catch it at the tail end of what I take to be its most exciting and powerful stage.
As much as I love the original 2-step dubstep stuff (not to mention garage itself), as I wrote in a previous post about Youngsta on Rinse in 2005, the era dominated by Loefah, Skream, Benga the Mystikz and D1 still seems to me to be the time when dubstep really WAS dubstep (which is probably something to do with the fact that I got into it at that time). Paradoxically, of course, while the notion of dubstep was powerful during that time, a large part of the genres appeal was its versatility – you felt like you never really knew what was coming, or how a producer was going to use the standard sub-bass at 140 formula.
Nowadays, although there is still a lot of versatility within dubstep, the most interesting stuff usually sounds like some other kind of music filtered through dubstep – techno, garage, reggae, house... It seems like dubstep's become a useful 140bpm tool for the fusing of all these old and disparate genres together with one tempo. Which is good. But the most obviously dubstep sounding dubstep now is- lamentably -rigid mid-range aggro stuff, which actually sounds like slowed down buzz-saw DNB (which is what people who were into DNB but hated dubstep used to – inaccurately - say dubstep sounded like... those same people who now ironically love dubstep which DOES sound like slowed down DNB... LOLZER). Which means that it doesn't sound THAT much like dubstep really, and that the definition of 'dubstep' has altered, perhaps irretrievably.
Funky's got a similar thing going on in it to Dubstep circa 2005/6 at the moment – it's got a very definite sound to it (and I'm talking here about the syncopated b2b rude stuff that Marcus Nasty always plays), but you never really feel that you know what's coming up next. It's got that recognisable rhythm (4X4 kick, shuffley percussion...), and certain textures/instruments reoccur quite a lot (dirty strings, synth-brass instruments etc.), but people are fucking around with that template in very different ways. The 'what the fuck is this?' factor is definitely in effect.
This effect is heightened considerably by the fact that I a) don't know what any of the tunes are called b) have never been raving to it (and, given that raves seem to be shirts-and-shoes affairs taking place in clubs that I probably won't end up going to) and c) don't know anybody at all within the funky community. The internet has obviously made everything (perhaps too) accessible – if that wasn't the case it's unlikely that I'd have been able to get into dubstep as much as I have – but I still feel distant from funky.
I don't really care, though – part of funky's raw energy and unpretentious strength probably comes from it being an urban London thing, so-far largely uncontaminated by neuro-funk nerdlingers (as seems to have been the case with jungle, garage and of course grime) and (urgh i've just been sick in a stolen traffic cone, dressed as Old Gregg) STUDENTS... people like ME, in other words. People like ME KILL genres. Just look what I singlehandedly did to Europop and Electroclash.
[ALSO I get to feel like I'm at last discovering something alien and new on a crackly old FM radio while sitting in a car on the outskirts of London, just like how other people used to walk 20 miles a day with a jug of water on their heads just to tune into three minutes of a Slew Dem show on Rinse, which they couldn't hear properly because the jug had sunk three inches into their ear lobe... When in fact I'm hearing it in my chocolate-cake and teddy bear-stuffed bedroom in sunny/rainy/(boring)/semi-rural Oxfordshire... this is especially useful to me now that all of my friends know who Burial is and keep asking me what my favourite SLT mob b-side is...]
Still, while I'm certainly getting really into funky – in love with its anthems (no matter how cheesy), excited by its visible hyper-speed progression into darker/grimier territory, interested in how it can be mixed easily into house/techno/dubstep/bassline AND grime, eager to get hold of the best records, religiously tuning into/downloading any marcus nasty sets I can get my mouse-cursor on etc, reading reams and reams of blogs/forum posts about it which are similar to this post but with more insight, accuracy and less references to fisting grannies etc... - I'm NOT (yet) consistently getting the neck-hair-prickling WHATTHEFUCKISTHIS feeling from it as I did from dubstep in 2006 (tunes like Loefah's ''I RMX'', ''Midnight Request Line'', ''Ancient Memories RMX'' etc...). A few reasons might be:
The 4x4 beat- Because tunes flow together pretty seamlessly in the mix, and so sometimes its harder to concentrate on listening to things as individual tunes rather than as bits of one big chunk of music. Also, I assume that one of the reasons I got into dubstep so easily was its steppy ness (and dark/rude bass) – which reminded me of jungle/DNB, which I was already obsessed with. Whereas I've only recently got into 4x4 dance music. Funky is rhythmically very interesting and loose, but sometimes I have to concentrate on it to remind myself its not just chugging along like a lot of more trad house does... speaking of which-
Not really a reason (neither was the last one but sue/forgive me), but an issue – traditionalism. There's apparently (evidently) a split in funky between what it was originally about – that is, US deep house style smooveness of the kind that Trevor Nelson probably secretes in the shower – and what it is becoming more and more about – grimey raw music that is undeniably connected to jungle/garage/grime and even dubstep...
When this was more the case, people said that funky wasn't really doing anything new or different (and they're still saying that – and probably quite accurately, I suppose. I'm not really that knowledgeable about the history of dance music and I suppose there's probably a whole load of New York house from 1953 that sounds exactly like funky does now blah blah blah...). Now, though things have obviously got a lot more interesting, there is still a vague feeling that this has all been heard before, like wot Simmo Reynolds wrote about funky being a circle-jerk facilitating custard-cream for all the old hardcore continuum ideas to leak into, or summat.
I can see how this might be true, but if anything I find the way people are using some of the old ideas from hardcore/jungle etc. in a rough-and-ready way pretty in-line with the feeling I get, when listening to old hardcore, that producers are just throwing whatever works into the mix (sonic signifiers of hardcore's history instead of funk/soul/hip-hop samples etc., maybe)... and not just in a novelty 2 MANY Djs style (''let's mash up the rolling stones with a salt n peppa beat''). It's part of the raw appeal of the genre – also not to forget that it doesn't sound particularly tasteful or sophisticated... and is able to be cheesy without being boring and stupid... and isn't exclusively being made by people who are to Logic/Cubase what a grown man with a comb-over who changes his name by deed-poll to Aragorn Axelgroth Jr. is to World of Warcraft.
HOW ever (not really, more a continuation of what I was just typing ...)- Marcus Nasty's last show on Rinse (which I posted up HERE, courtesy of Grievous Angel) basically gave me a similar feeling to hearing dubstep for the first time. Partly this was because I was hearing it LIVE, and that gave me a feeling of participation in things (being ''in the right place at the right time''), and as such a great concentration on what was NEXT. But mainly I think it was because a lot of the tunes Marcus was playing simply were NEXT (level). At last, the bandwagon is really worth riding!
(belatedly) 3. I've read too much about it. I went in 'cold' to dubstep and so didn't have a lot of unhelpful preconceptions built up in my head about what it all was supposed to mean, how it expressed the historical spirit of rave and probably set controlled explosions off in the WTC on Sep 11th using Princess Diana's severed hand to get past the finger-print ident scanner etc.... I'd like to try and keep the discourse around funky in my head to a minimum. This probably explains why I've written such a rambling and incoherent blog about it all, right? It's not just that I'm lazy. I'm trying to confuse you all with so much flagrant bullshit that you (that is, Corpsey) resolve to never read anything about funky music again and just tune into M.Nasty every Wednesday instead... Because ultimately, this is fun party music to dance to, not to caress your chin to. So the thing to do now, evidently, is shut the fuck up about it like a good b