Saturday, June 27, 2015

dubstep in hindsight

super detailed oral history of the dawn and golden age of dubstep  - pulled together Lauren Martin

loads of little data nuggets

like this bit on cutting house Transition as favored by the Croydon dons for their dubstep dubplates

LOEFAH: Transition is a cutting house based in Forest Hill, near where we lived in south London. We heard that's where Grooverider got his dubs cut, and that was enough for us, frankly, so I started going there in probably 2003. There were rules: you only paid for your own dubs if you wanted them for yourself. If Hatcha wanted one of my tracks to play out, he'd have to pay to get it cut to dub, and then that was his copy. It all depended on what rate you were on, too: I was on 25 quid for two sides of a 10-inch, 30 quid for a 12-inch. They swapped from 10-inch to 12-inch 'cause they "ran out" of 10-inch, around 2005-06, but that was a step up. Going back to 10-inch might have made us look cheap, y'know?
JOE NICE: I started pressing and stayed on 10-inch because it was less expensive but, for me, when I was playing the early Dub War parties, it was as much a visual cue as anything else. If someone sees me pull out something that doesn't look the same size from a distance, they're thinking, "Yo, is that a 10-inch? Yooo, 10-inch are dubplates. Yooo, Joe Nice has a dubplate? Oh shit – I gotta hear what this brother's gonna play." Bottom line: dubplates keep you in the room.
And this bit about the emergence of the half-step lurch-beat
YOUNGSTA: Loefah took it to the point where he changed the structure of the drums. Not straight syncopated 4/4. Not 2-step garage. It was about taking a break out and having as much space as possible, while still maintaining a groove. Some of it was so atmospheric that it was like a soundscape, but we didn't take it that far and that's what made it a winner. Me, I'm weird. I like things a certain way, and that was how you could make a whole new track out of a blend of two of Loefah's beats. Even if two beats are perfectly in key with each other – which they always should be, beat-matching aside – it's about the pin-point precision timing of mixing together two or three beats that are so perfectly in key, and so stripped back, that they have elements in each that the other doesn't; that when put together, they create a whole new tune.You know how drum and bass breaks go well together because of how they're structured? And how house has a 4/4 beat? Percussion, melody and leads would vary massively for us, and the kicks could be where they wanted, but the snare? The snare would have to be on the half-time of the 140BPM beat, so that it would sound slower than 140BPM. That's why I've never practised. I haven't had any form of mixing equipment in my house for ten years. Loefah would give me a tune and I'd play it on Rinse, some time between 9 and 11PM, and that's it till the next club or radio show. It's like maths: if I knew that the snare is always there, my mixes would work.

Reading through the whole thing - and it is a bit of tl;dr epic - i couldn't help thinking that the whole evolution in all its intricacies and tangents across 8 years or so...   it is - dare I say it - NUUMy as fuck 
But then I couldn't help also thinking, well if so, then how come  I didn't really love-LOVE it -  dubstep? Not in the LUVVIT-2-THA-BONE sense... 
Appreciated it, oh yes...  enjoyed its existence as food-for-thought and the extension of something (the 90s Part 2)...  enjoyed and admired it as long-form listening....  even thrilled now and then to the occasional pretty amazing choooon ("Bombay Squad", "Qawwali", "Night", "Request Line", "Spongebob", "South London Boroughs", few others), 
but no, it was never a  love-LOVE-LOVE-IT, LUVVIT-2-THA-BONE,   2-THA-MARROW thing...
and it can't be because I wasn't there, right in the thick of it ... because I wasn't there for grime either,  I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic....  but I love-LOVE-LOVED grime (2 THA BONE, THA CHROMOSOME)
i think it must partly be that beat - too torpid for someone torpid enough already metabolically - the groove just didn't engage my body
but mainly i think it must be because it just wasn't an anthem-oriented scene... even those exceptional tunes I listened above, they aren't really anthems...  not quite...  they're bangers, maybe, some of them
i think it's the dearth of cheese, of POP!, that actually held me back from the full LUVVIT
the cheese, the POP! that runs through hardcore, through peak jungle... dims a bit during drum'n'bass (but is compensated for by either lush-cious musicality OR apocalyptic bombast)... the cheese, the POP!, that comes back strong with UKG, with 2step... and is there, in a way even in grime....  re-effloresces with bassline...  
dubstep, even at its most overbearing, is a deep sound, a tracky sound, a techy sound
Well it's History now.... 15 years since its earliest years or so since it got hijacked  / "went down the wrong path"  - leaving the faithful bereft, making them disperse, or launch the postdubstep era
Hold tight for the wonky oral history... 

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