Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brostep's bass-blasts dissected!

 Going Hard: Bassweight, Sonic Warfare, & the 'Brostep" Aesthetic", by Mike D’Errico of UCLA, offers an academic analysis of the "wobble continuum" and its assaultive eruptions of tremolo-bass,  deploying concepts like digital maximalism, hypermasculinity, and Julian Henriques notion of "sonic dominance.":

'“Hardness” is the overriding affect here; compressed, gated kick and snare drum samples combine with coagulated, “overproduced” basslines made up of multiple oscillators vibrating at broad frequency ranges, colonizing the soundscape by filling every chasm of the frequency spectrum. The music—and the media forms with which it has become entwined—has served as the affective catalyst and effective backdrop for the emergence of an unabashedly assertive, physically domineering, and adrenaline-addicted “bro” culture. '

It's the first in a series of brostep-dedicated essays at Sounding Out, apparently, with others to come from Christina Giacona, and series editor Justin D Burton.

Interesting, precisely-described stuff from D'Errico, although the reflexive revulsion from masculinist aesthetics and videogame-generation ADD-OD power trips is a bit by-the-book academia. As well ast the "Maximal Nation" piece  he might want to check out the Hardcore Continuum series essay "Masculine Pressure", on gladiatorial and militaristic imagery in jungle, dubstep and grime -if not quite a defence or apologia, certainly an explanation.

postscript (1/24/14): Robin James at It's Her Factory adds her thoughts on the topic of "Bro-gemony & dubstep":

"Whereas industrial capitalism required conformity (mass production = standardization), neoliberal capitalism requires distortion. And it requires this distortion from everyone, not just bros, men, or masculine subjects. The rewards for that noisemaking are unevenly distributed so that patriarchy wins, but everyone is required to max out, to scream as loud and as long as possible....

"The hardcore distortion Mike discusses certainly does the work of patriarchy, but as a generalized ideal not limited to “masculinity,” at least as traditionally conceived as a quality attributed to “men.” Distortion is the general means of production. And in this model, instead of thinking about masculinity as an attribute of individual people, it’s more helpful to think of patriarchy as an attribute of the overall mix. Young-Girls and Spring Breakers can central players in bro culture. "

She analogises from noise/rowdiness as disruption (an outdated notion of insubordination, breaking free, unconstraint, insurrection) to the neolib/accelerationist celebration of the innovator as disruptor:

"This Bro is patriarchy as corporate ‘person’ who wants each individual to be entrepreneurial–to take risks, to ‘disrupt’–because these individual ventures generate the dynamism on which the corporate bro feeds. This Bro is cool with whatevs–drugs, sex, even letting girls Lean In and being a little bromancy and gay himself. Excess isn’t just tolerated; the Bro expects and demands excess from individuals, because that’s what keeps him going."

Her final provocation: "An alternative to Bro-gemony might look like something altogether uncool, inflexible, and reactionary... When Bro-capitalism demands that we make lots of noise, that we distort ourselves to the max, things like cleanliness and fastidiousness function counter-culturally, maybe…"

That reminded me a bit of my celebration of Vampire Weekend as Appollonian - dainty not Dionysian

But the hipper to be square move has a long history of course - anti-rockism, the Style Council, the perennial embrace of E-Z listening / muzak / exotica  (from Jerry Dammers to Lanza's Elevator Music to, well, vaporwave).

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