How Burial and Jamie xx broke the UK scene: the post-dubstep era

A rappresentation of bass sounds

In our “Guide To The Origins Of Dubstep Music” we’ve analyzed how the dissemination of ideas and the great influence between a huge number of different genres led to a revolution which allowed to give voice to various social contexts. Its real strength was the freedom to span between multiple styles with one simple rule: “staying within a well-defined rhythm”. As a consequence some artists joined the dubstep game without abandoning their strong external influences from IDM, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and many more, providing an unprecedented variety to the genre.

The game definitely broke with the debut album from William Bevan a.k.a. Burial, who pushed the genre so hard that every bond with past styles got dissolved allowing the reaching of a surprising purity. In its own revolution, Burial brought a new concept of music production: perfection is not on the rhythm itself but in its own freedom of expression. He avoided the uso of sequencers in order to move freely following his own vibe instead of revolving around loops. This is the starting concept on which the “post-dubstep” era will lay its foundations.

The incredible gap created by Burial exposed all real limits of Dubstep and it led to a rapid decline of the genre. During the period between his 2007’s eponymous EP up to his 2013’s Rival Dealer, no one seemed to be able to handle so much freedom and keep the genre alive. The stern had been raised so much that every point of reference was lost. The great influences seen at the dawn of Dubstep stopped working once and for all.

The only way to go ahead was to take a new route and exploit the freedom that Burial highlighted with his amazing works. Dubstep’s classic stress on the third bar showed to be too restrictive so the focus started to move from the rhythm to the bass and more specific sounds, in order to reach something more expressive and less standardized. A genre freed of its own rhythm could especially emphasize artist’s creativity. In fact from the first proto-UK bass (of which I’ll talk later) there was an explosion of trends and ideas that made it impossible to give a specific technical definition to the genre. Despite the previous scene, the birth of socials, especially of Soundcloud, really helped the development of all UK bass embryos thanks to their ease of sharing. Therefore growth was no longer based solely on UK’s soundsystem and clubs but also on technology and its advantages.

It’s quite difficult to speak with certainty when trying to define the precise moment in time when UK bass was formally invented. The real problem is its generic “technical” definition “Everything that draws attention to the bass”, one example can be the great research in bass sounds made by Shackleton with his tribal influences, or going back to 2006 Skream‘s path into new bass sounds through his thick synths. Furthermore, just as happened with dubstep, Uk Bass‘ embryos spread gradually in clubs and because there is no way to keep track of this side of the story, it’s impossible to consider all factors. The aim of this article is to analyze how it became one of the most influential genres of our time and to do so we can move on and try to see some relevant examples of the post-Burial era where we can clearly point out these different movements and trends.

The first big hint of this new movement came with the release of Jamie xx‘s remix of “I’m New Here” by soul poet Gil-Scott Heron. With the will of showing all his influences on an album that should have “sounded a bit like being in a night club“, the English producer managed to enclose the most trending genres of clubs in the UK with an innovative and experimental cut. As a result, the album expressed an incredibly variable structure for each track, with influences from dance tempos, sub-bass and undefined rhythms spanning from dubstep and UK funky combined with techno and drum ‘n’ bass. Jamie xx managed to go beyond standardization of genres on which sounds in the UK were based on. “We Are New Here” clearly express his will of freeing himself from a strongly closed scene and underlines the aim of breaking virtual boundaries that were blocking the evolution of British electronic music. Undoubtedly this was one of the major steps in the development of the post-dubstep movement.

Probably “We Are New Here” is one of the most evident examples when considering the whole genre shift. Uk Bass is a really huge container and it blends itself with a great number of electronic genres so it can’t be treated like a clear separated thing. The greater creative and expressive opening we’ve underlined allowed UK Bass to find new influences and paths, one of the most important being the post-industrial one. For the first time, UK culture was able to infect all rising electronic movements around the world. In fact with this move, it was finally developed towards a genre that had reached its apex mainly in the US where bands like Nine Inch Nails or Death Grips found in noise sounds the means to express their anger and their feelings.

One of the main successes reached by the fusion of Uk Bass and post-industrial sounds was reached by Sd Laika‘s works. From his first EP “Unknown Vector” back in 2012 Peter Runge rapidly reached great notoriety and incredible sophistication. He managed to control the fusion of post-industrial sounds and the steady beat imposition of grime into something extremely sick and unacessible.
Two years later with his debut album “That’s Harakiri“, Sd Laika pushed the limits of his own experimentation further once again up to a higher and more refined level towards IDM rhythms hitting the fresh features of UK Bass texture.

Another great success in the direction of post-industrial experimentation was achieved on albums like Andy Stott‘s “Faith In Strangers”. Following his experimentation with techno and dub sounds carried out on “Luxury Problems”, Stott developed and reinforced the layering with a biting component. These works were so refined that they were able to go beyond all previous experimentation, working on so many genres and sounds that they finally opened the way to a huge number of different trends and ideas, widening the Uk Bass‘ field further once more. Some examples can be Lotic, Kablam, WWWINGS, and many more.

Jamie xx, Sd Laika and Andy Stott represent two of the greatest expressions that Uk Bass has ever reached, the genres has evolved even more in the last 2-3 years, and many extra amazing artists are coming out following their path. A deeper analysis of all the various currents of thought could be very dispersive. Therefore there will be a further new article with a deepening of all post-dubstep currents that came later. In order to enrich the readers experience, this article features a mix with some of the best tracks and ideas coming from bass music, you can listen to it below:

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