Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Artwork – Red/2002/

2002 is the year, and it marks the the dawn of something entirely new in electronic dance music. No one really knows yet, what is or what will be happening in the forthcoming decade of bassline music, some hints are given to the audience though. A handful of DJs/producers have been experimenting and messing with acoustics.

Artwork, being one of them, has played architect, split the dance sound into small blocks and rearranged them to form a whole new structure. Some funky sound has emerged. You can hear a growling, wobbly resonant bassline thudding beneath your feet with punchy rhythm structures to accompany the subs. The snare is crashing in your face heavier than ever. This sounds familiar, but not quite. This track marks a shift towards unexplored terrain in electronic dance music.

Shackleton – Stalker/2004/

Here the percussive, rhythmic looseness of the snare drum and hats mingling with a short human ‘breath’ vocal and claps is already more distinctive to a style and gives the track an uneasy mood. It’s as if you are walking in a dark alley, lost and confused and you can feel someone following you, at times breathing on your neck. The pitch-shifting synth bass sounds like the stalker playing hiding games in the fog behind and around you, at times revealing oneself. Hannibal Lecter singing: "Ready or not, here I come!" The rhythm section is perfectly built around the bassline, letting the track remain in constant motion. Several synth sounds put on top of the whole in the second part let the swirling atmospheres become even more tense when suddenly, an assault at the end of the alley! The Stalker has caught his prey...

Kode 9 & Spaceape – Sign of the Dub/2004/

This experimental one is driven by a low-end pulsating bass, like a heartbeat. Given in a proper sound system environment, that bass would make your chest expand and retract, forcing your heart beat and your lungs breathe in sync with the track. Definitely a sign of dub, a sign of sound system culture.

The deep synths and reverberant hat set above the bass just stop time, hypnotise the listener and blur his vision. It's like a flashback of some past event and you can’t get out of this everlasting moment – “sign of the times, gonna mess with your mind.” That ridiculous vocal accompanying the track keeps you in a dreamlike state, maybe even go back in time. The sound is becoming more distinctive, showing new shades and directions in bass music.

Burial – South London Boroughs/2005/

Waking up from the dream, you realise, that UK bass music has yet again paved the way for new dance rhythms. The rhythmic structure has gotten more complex and syncopated. The tempo is recognisable at some 140 bpm with the track relying on the kickdrum based around the first and third beat of a bar. One hi hat on top of it all still gives the track a garage feel though.

The synths at the beginning, or the first part of the composition feel like you’re longing for, searching for that distinctive something. The humming bassline combined with the darker synths and dub FX in the second part of the track form a sonic corridor of sort, with a lazer occasionally cutting and stabbing through the walls like a machete. So you better mind not to get cut. At the end of the corridor the music starts running faster and the chase for new sounds is on – keep up with the pace.

Loefah – Root/2005/

DMZ (Digital Mystikz) are perhaps the ones to let dubstep as a genre stand in its own right. In this trunedubstep has grown to fullness. Delays give it the dub element.. The rhythm structure as well is more evident and distinctly dubstep, with its syncopated triplets and the deep resonant sub-bassline, which now really perforates your body, driving the whole thing. You just have to stay on your feet and keep steppin’.

That half time beat structure leaves lots of space between sounds, urging the dancer to fill the blanks with movement. Most lively dub FX like the heavily reverberating snares and claps move the track further away form you, yet the bassline which resonates even more after the drop, wraps your body back into it. This is what it was all about! This is actually what we were running towards. And then you realise you are at the center of a sound system with music seemingly so slow as if it was on reduction gear, sounds heavier than a tank and people swaying under the influence of high pressure sonics.

Skream – Midnight Request Line/2005/

Parents beware, your kids are being entirely brainwashed by these fresh sounding cutting synth tunes and that LFO sub-bass taking complete control over their neurons! Their bodies are in the custody of the DJ now and they are unwillingly jumping and going nuts like madmen, heavily sedated by the dub FX.

Typically for, say ‘more classic’ dubstep, the atmosphere of this track is quite darkside, but still somewhat meditative and danceable. The structure is common as well, incorporating an intro, a mid section after the drop and an outro after the second drop. The structure is similar to drum and bass/UK garage, making it evident, where the roots of dubstep stretch. The sound FX gives the track additional dread, like the DJ reloading his gun, pointing the barrel - gunshot, one dead, reload, gunshot, another dead, generating a killer effect. Only the most mad dancers are able to dodge the bullets. Absolute massive this one!

Digital Mystikz – Haunted/2006/

Another heavyweight knockout tune from Digital Mystikz has landed here. 'Haunted' would become the bona fide slice of bottom end magic. Rollin in with some wildout dub FX, 'haunted' drops the most hummable DMZ bassline yet over a bones beat heavier than Wladimir Klitschko delivering a series of left-right-left punches in your face. Given space by a nifty use of some plundered radiophonic workshop SFX and the DMZ knowledge of how to drive the dance, this production will definitely knock you off your feet. You could barely notice Shackleton’s ‘Stalker’ approaching and it caught you. This time it’s the poltergeist, so pay special attention!

Skream – Monsoon (Loefah Remix)/2006/

House of flying daggers, perhaps one of the most definitve sub-continental Asian melodies in dubstep, lies too much on the fromage-step side, personally and would appeal to ladies more in my opinion. However, I am not a lady and if I was, this one would be to sit back, have a spliff or do some ironing. But hey, you have to kick some mellow ones to appeal to the girls and this will do the job just perfectly.

Shackleton – Blood on my Hands (Ricardo Villalobos’ Apocalypso Now Mix)/2007/

“When I see the towers fall…fall…fall…fall”…refracted through an MDMA crystal into 18 minutes of tripping minimal genius. The vocals and melody laid over the sturdy mesh of loping 4/4 rhythms intertwining themselves with blissed abandonment and loose-limbed structures. The dubwise application of micro edited sounds allows to bleed and reverberate around the rhythm making for a deliciously hypnotic and disorientating effect. Reverberant bass kicking through your chest, the filter cutoff automating slowly back and forth, surrendering the track to constant progressive nature.

Ricardo Villalobos giving a dubstep tune remixing marks the shift towards new frontiers and fusion of the style. Dubstep is no longer a style in its strict half time framework, but gives way for experimentation, which the most forwardthinking artists take advantage of. Techno producers approach their music from the dubstep angle and the dubstep producers do so vice versa. This track, definitely designed to keep you locked in the groove, again demonstrates the importance and influence of UK bass music.

“Its flesh is weak, its forms break down, it cannot last forever,” yet the 18 minutes of monotonous, minimalistic sonic structures are very controversial to the message of the vocal, the track just doesn't seem to have an end. It keeps evolving and that's the very essence of it, to hypnotise the dancer with as little as possible. It is not very different from an African tribe playing multiple percussive drums at a time and chanting – can get extatic can’t it?

Shackleton – you bring me down/2007/

The tempo has risen again. Here Shackleton brings his signature sound. Again minimalistic, yet very dribbling rhythms, each element has its own, carefully calculated position in the sound field. It is not minimal in the sense that Villalobos’ mix of ‘Blood on my Hands’ – with quite few elements flowing around the the basis rhythm. Here you can hear maybe twice as many different sounds, very elaborately dripping in from different corners, and still all of them come in at just the right moment. The dribbling udu drum carries the whole rhythm section. It’s dribbling indeed, as this is what makes you forget about the loose structures of dubstep, pierces your mind and elevates you to another level.

Here we are on the very experimental frontiers of this new UK sound. Dubtep has parted from its rigidness in style, even to an extent where any resemblance in structure to drum and bass or garage is lost. The only man, who could achieve that same effect of structural ambiguity is Muslimgauze. Like Muslimgauze’s, Shackleton's sound is most tribal, hypnotic ambient driven mysticism. These many different synth atmospheres have the acoustics constantly evolving into something different, a new, unheard of world of electronics.

2562 – Channel Two/2007/

One of the most forwardthinking productions of the era. Here we are. It is peaktime of the sound system and the DJ is dropping bombs now – this is the ‘Fat Boy’. You might feel lost – what is that? The dubwise FX combined with these punchy, kicking broken beat rhythm structures can and will throw you around the dancefloor, and you can do nothing but just stand there and let it do its job.

It’s deeper than the Mariana Trench, yet the multiple synths elevate the dancer and pull him out of the uncertainty, rocket him higher than the Mount Everest - I can see now, I know now! How deep can you go dive in such an elevated atmosphere. One would simply have to be there to fully grasp what is happening. It’s tense, it’s tight, yet it's super clean and sharp as no other artist has achieved quite like 2562 and with it's metronomic hi-hats, this just sounds as if a brain surgeon handling a scalpel, carefully cutting into the dancer’s nervous system and switching to ‘DANCE’. This is cutting edge dancefloor experience.

TRG – Broken Heart (Martyn’s DCM Remix)/2008/

Have you ever had goosebumps from music? Well, if you are a person of any perception at all, this one will do just the trick – it does every time I listen to it. And if you are lucky enough, you will find yourself wiping tears on the dancefloor. That low-end bittersweet, subliminal chord section is put to work to an extent of paralising effect, forcing you to look back and reminisce on the times that were.

The original was killer, and this one mix is the murderer. Martyn here, has funked up the rave elements and pushed the chords even further old skool and the broken beats will affect anyone who stays in the way of these sonic waves perfectly complemented by the massive bassline. An atmosphere quite inexplicable – whether to dance or to sit back and pay attention – a perfect dance track.

Peverelist – Infinity is Now/2008/

This has been a long journey through the darkest alleys, most reverberant echo-corridors, with sounds never heard before. We have untiringly went through the lowest points on earth and hit the highest, thinking that sky is the limit. However, it is not.

This tune is another good example of mingling with techno – ‘Infinity is now’ arrives at the junction of the mechanics of Detroit, the motorik qualities of Berlin dub techno and swung UK garage rhythms combining the three into a brilliantly immersive dancefloor sensation. The rather rarefied skipping 4/4 rhythm section allows the multiple layers of synth and dub FX built around a triangular bass melody create an uplifting atmosphere high above, as high as the open cosmos – infinity indeed.

Rather than just sound system friendly bass-driven acoustics, Peverelist goes all the way for churning techno. The acid machine circling overhead covers your whole body with acoustic waves that carry you through the space and take complete hold of your sensory system. You are now perfectly locked into the groove - the groove however, represents infinity. You have reached the limit, in where no limits exist. Infinity is now.

Kode 9 – Black Sun/2009/

Rippling junglist/dubstep sub-bass wrapped around a bubbling square-wave bassline and tucked under the tidiest rhythm syncopations. An unruly distorted synthline that cuts like a razor blade and owns the whole thing with a seriously ear-worming effect that will hold you captive for the entire of its duration. It's seriously smart gear. It feels like 5 and a half minutes of slow descend from your flight in dubbed out sonics, then touching ground and switching back to real time. You start to slowly regain your consciousness and be able to think back as the tameless synth pitches up again, and you are dragged reluctantly from side to side. Yet it feels perfectly safe and cushioned. It’s the bobbling bass cushioning your fall. After the 5 minute descend complete silence pervades. You are back on ground again.

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