|People here have requested I post something about dubstep, so I've put together a little "beginners guide" so people can get up to speed with it rapidly should they so wish. |
Dubstep is an underground music scene derived equally from UKGarage and dub reggae which has been evolving since 2001 but which exploded in popularity in 2006. Essentially, dubstep is one half of what happened to UK Garage when it collapsed due to over-exposure in 2001. Half that scene, in East London and especially Bow, slowed down, focused on the MC rather than the producer or DJ, embraced dancehall and hip hop, and became grime. The other half of that scene, in South London and especially Croydon, stuck at 138 bpm (but often ran beats at half that speed), focused on the producer and largely excised the MC, embraced dub reggae, and became dubstep. For the last year and a half, dubstep has become, for me, the most exciting music in the world. It is also, right now, the sweetest and most delightful music scene you can imagine.
Both dubstep and grime have their roots in the 'ardkore continuum - that current of dance music that runs from hardcore, into jungle, and into UK garage, which has its roots in UK reggae and soundsystem culture. You can see more about the history and nature of dubstep at the Wikipedia entry.
THE MUSIC- WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
Musically there's a lot of variation around the theme of "roughly 138bpm tempo, post garage with swining grooves, dub-infused music". There are deep dark spacey wobblers (Loefah), digi-based steppers (Digital Mystikz), breaks-driven bouncers (Skream), stompy hackers (D1), massively overdriven industrial noisescapes (Vex'd), funky rollers (Boxcutter), and very, very soft, delicate, almost ambient ones (Random Trio, Blackdown). All of these styles have something to recommend them.
Dubstep sounds amazing on monstrous systems, and live is where it most makes sense. Unless you've got a very big system at home, or a sub, you will miss literally half the music. (I suspect the home cinema revolution and the addition of subs as a standard component of PCs was a big influence on dubstep production...)
THE DUBSTEP SCENE AND CROWD
The Breezeblock Dubstep Warz mp3 has interviews with all the main players, and one of the points key producer Loefah makes is that dubstep events aren't about drugs, aren't about MCs being aggressive, and aren't about pulling. Rather, the people just want a big dark room, a fuck off deep soundsystem, and bass weight. It's just about being into the music. Weed is the only drug people really go for. Coke is generally frowned upon as "wasteman" but I expect as ever there's a bit about, though I haven't seen any myself. There's a few pills. Weed is the main drug of choice and not everyone does that.
Above all, in the dubstep scene at this time, the vibe is pure PLUR, pure love vibes, and thus far, if people haven't behaved properly, the crowd politely asks them to sort it out. I don't know how long this will last but right now it is, quite simply, a blessed scene. You may think that's hyperbole, but it's true. This has a lot to do with the attitude of the main producers. Unlike most of the people you meet in the music business, they are, for now at least, very humble, very respectful of others, and utterly intolerant of bad vibes that will spoil their nights. They are also extremely indpendent minded - and clued up. They're not looking to make a quick buck because they know there probably is not one to be made.
THE MUSIC - MIXES TO LISTEN TO
There are tons of mixes around for the uninitiated to check out. In particular there are loads at www.barefiles.com, a south London server which has become a repository for scene's music.
Two good introductions to the sound are my own Dubstep Sufferah mix here and Californian blogger Paul Autonomic's exquisite mix (
Plus, you should definitely get the Dub Wars show put together for Radio One's Breezeblock show (Mary Ann Hobbes is a friend of the scene and is regularly at the big dances). It has interviews with and mixes from all the key producers. It's here
I'd also recommend the Digital Mystikz Essential mix, which is an excellent overview of the key unreleased tunes by this very important group. It's
Plus you should listen to Skream's landmark mix of his own productions for Blackdown Soundboy (leading dubstep writer and producer Martin Clark):
You should also search Barefiles for the Youngsta mixes off London pirate station Rinse FM.
For a historical view, you might want to try the Dubstep History mix - it's
here which is excellent, bumpy, swinging dark garage stuff, or Selector Dub U's fantastic Sub FM mix from March here which mixes reggae, garage, hip hop and electronica (Tangerine Dream!) into a really nice concoction.
THE MUSIC - TUNES TO BUY
For the last year there has simply not been enough dubstep to buy. That meant that the quality was fantastically high, but it also meant that most tunes were familiar since they'd been played out for a long time on dubplate. However there is a raft of new material coming out now that the audience has expanded. Dubstep fans will buy anything on DMZ, the label run by the Digital Mystikz and Loefah. Key releases include Haunted / Anti-War Dub, Neverland / Stuck, and the brilliant new single (though familar for over a year) Ancient Memories. However the biggest dubstep tune is Skream's Midnight Request Line, which is very hooky. Most of Skream's stuff is just brilliant - it's worth getting his recent double pack on Tempa. My personal favourite producr is Loefah, his Goat Stare and Root are fabulous singles, as is the 28Grams / Fearless twelve he did with Skream. Random Trio's Cyrus EP is minimal indian
classical -sampling madness. And most of the releases on the Hotflush label are worth getting especially Boxcutter, but also things like Scuba's Harpoon / Dream 12. Pinch's Qawalli on planet mu is another minimal masterpiece, especially the new VIP mix. Soon come are more Digital Mystikz on the Soul Jazz label, and everyone on the scene is desperate for Skream to release Dutch Flowers and Music To Make You Stagger, which are great, fabulously melodic, massively bouncy records. These should all be out by the end of summer.
The nights I've been to have all been massively friendly, not in that cheesy quaver irritating falseness way, but simply in terms of having a really sound, no-attitude crowd. They've also been nicely mixed gender wise. See the pix on my blog and at Georgina Cook's Drumz of the South blog. I think you can see all her dubstep pix here.
Industrial was kindalike music for menstrual boys, and dubstep has a bit of that vibe about it. It seems pretty female friendly: I have observed that the heavier the music gets at dubstep nights, the more the girls get into it. This was very obvious when Mala from Digital Mystikz played Sheffield - he did a torturous section of unrelenting harsh 4x4 steppers that had 'em screaming... then dropped it down into this amazing jazz funk meets dubstep tune, before taking it back up through groovier sounds.
DUBSTEP NEWS SOURCES
The key place to go to is the dubstep forum itself (go
here)which has a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio although it's a pretty "young" crowd. The don of dubstep writers is Martin Clark; his Blackdown Soundboy blog is essential (it's
here.) He does an excellent monthly column on Grime and Dubstep on Pitchfork (his current one, on the excellent Burial CD, is
here .) Of the non-professionals, Nick Gutterbreakz' blog is terrific (it's here) while for a US perspective, you can't do better than check Paul Autonomic's site here.
That's probably more than enough for now. Basically, dubstep is great right now - enjoy it while it lasts.