From the 2000s UK was influenced by so many musical genres to engage an incredibly rapidly evolving process. 2-step garage, dub, techno, drum and bass, broken beat, jungle have always remained in touch, increasingly mingling one an other. The birth of a new genre was made possible through Jamaican culture, which brought sound system parties in Albion’s land, bringing together all kind of people and playing different types of music allowed a rapid dissemination of ideas.Talking about dubstep, we can’t analyse the scene from a specific point of views instead we must consider all different positions assumed by artists: In fact, while some producers have remained more attached to dub roots, others have developed a new style, opening up to countless contaminations and allowing dubstep to infiltrate inside even significantly different musical forms , like techno and IDM.
To properly understand each step we must to start from a simple binaric classification: Tempa and Hyperdub, the two most influential record labels in the dupstep world.
Tempa can be considered as the label which more influenced the dubstep scene, it is the one that mostly represents the transition state between genres like IDM, drum’n’bass, techno and dubstep embrios. Its most important artists are people like Horsepower Production, Skream, Benga, Digital Mistikz. Starting from the beginning the first dubstep’s album is attribuited to Horsepower Production‘s In Fine Style, which represents the crossing line beetween dubstep and drum’n’bass/idm.
Skream represents the meeting point between dub roots, already taken as a reference point in most productions, and the newest generation of electronic music expressions. His “Skream!” record can be considered a proto-dubstep milestone, composed by fresh melodies and powerful bass lines, which enable him to gather an extremely strong personality, despite the huge amount influences. The abundance of ideas proposed with unique simplicity, will make this album a source of inspiration for all subsequent dubstep’s producers.
Benga manages to overcome the strong dub influence trough his “Diary of an Afro Warrior”, in which he underlines the “step” phase instead of the “dub” one. Influenced by the same Skream, Benga expresses dubstep in a dancy key, the rapid battery groove blended with explosive and frequently noisy melodies shifts the focus on rhythm, making the listening incredibly lightweight.
The collective Digital Mystikz, composed by producers Mala and Coki, is the one of the experimentations that gets closest to dubstep. Return II Space is a search of new frontiers, repetitive and punchy groovse conquer the scene, melodies get flatter, progressions are almost missing. There is a strong relation with IDM, “Unexpected” is like a dubstep version of Boards of Canada.
Switching to Hyperdub, its founder Kode9 has played a central role in the evolution of the genre, among the various publications there are relevant works like Memories of the Future and Black Sun as well as tracks like “Black Sun” and “2 Far Gone” where we can find a more unique than rare sense of sophistication, showing a cultured inspiration in the attitude towards their work.
Analysing deeper Kode9‘s works, the inseparable bond that was established between new dubstep versions and dub sound which dominated underground environments of London is evident . It’s an evolution looking for new ways without forgetting the past.
With his Hyperdub records, Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) is one of the most solid representatives of the dubstep scene.
The most significant step ever done in dubstep music is reached by Burial‘s debut, with his 2006’s eponymous album he brought the genre to a next level. The Londoner producer, influenced by dark underground sounds and pirate radio culture, describes the unrest he lives within his city. With an obsessive focus on the rythmic section, which he considers to be the only catchy element of a song. Spooked vocals and ghostly echoes are repeated for the entire album to which is added the battery weight. His secret is the avoiding of sequencing which helps him to work directly on the sorrow vibe instead of revolving around loops.
William Bevan a.k.a. Burial manages to give life to a genre that sounds much fresher than the past, moving away from strong dub influences and Londoners Sound sytem that had characterised the roots in past years.
This is the point that makes Kode9 and Burial‘s productions the cornerstones of dubstep: while the first attempts try to patch up with the past, the second represents an accomplished evolution without precedents.
Check out our review for Burial’s “Young Death”.