Saturday, June 16, 2018

a decade of postdubstep

Was thinking the other day, it's been ten years - more or less, give or take - of postdubstep

And was wondering "where's it at now, then?"

And also "what did it amount to?"

Here's a compilation, on Bristol's Timedance label, and a review of it (by Philip Sherburne), that provides some answers

I like this track a lot:

Phil places the comp in the company of "iconic UK label documents" such as Warp’s Artificial Intelligence, Mo Wax’s Headz, and Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1" - all of which he says were "surveys of a landscape in flux, less repositories for an established sound than catalysts for a new upheaval".

Weeeeeell, the first two of those, I always thought, were actually pretty patchy compilations - although they certainly captured a Moment, it's true.

Phil identifies two aspects of the state-of-art that I think are true (and that I feel as deficiencies)

1/ a deficit of anthems.

As he writes, "Chekov’s clattering “Stasis 113”... is the only real club anthem here" .

I'm not sure I would agree that even that qualifies as an anthem to be honest - it's got a strident beat, yes - but you need more than that to achieve anthem-hood.  Anthems - think 2BM "Bombscare," Renegade "Terrorist," Double 99 "Ripgroove"  - are purpose-built to massive-fy a dancefloor. They contain embedded behavioral cues that trigger synchronised crowd responses; they appeal to the crowd-as-body.  Postdubstep tracks, when I listen to them, I don't picture a scene, a social tableau.

2/ a deficit of definition.

Phil rolls out the potted history ("the story of UK dance music is a story of mutation: of soundsystem culture and breakbeat hardcore colliding to create jungle and drum ’n’ bass; of American house that spawned its mutant UK garage; of the darkside 2-step that would morph into dubstep, that (briefly) world-conquering sound that rampaged like a world-conquering robot") as set-up for the inevitable pivot to the "2010s be different times" argument (i.e. we've moved past the era of genres and scenes):

"But aside from a few exceptions—specialist subgenres like UK funky, drumstep, and bassline house, also sometimes known, fittingly enough, as “niche”—the UK hasn’t generated many new styles in the past decade. That doesn’t mean that the process of evolution has hit a wall; it has just diversified and diffused. Instead of yielding distinct, readily identifiable rhythmic signatures, club music’s innovations have become restless, reinventing themselves at every turn. Seeking new ground across an expanded array of tempos, cutting-edge club music has poured its energy into shape-shifting textures and timbres. It’s a tough time for those of a taxonomical bent, but a golden age for listeners who like to be surprised at every turn."

Ha, yes, that's me for sure - "of a taxonomic bent". Definitely!

But more importantly I'm of a wanting to be shocked, brocked, shaken - and then, much later, stirred to write a thinkpiece about it ;) 

I mean this tune...

It's good -  I didn't feel like I'd wasted 7 minutes of my life afterwards. But I don't hear anything in it that feels 20-years-in-advance of Optical's "To Shape The Future." The production is more detailed and more spatially contoured. But that's just 20 years of upgrades innit?

So for me, it's been ten years of diffusion (as Phil writes) but also of defusion - as in a bomb being defused.

But I know there are others who disagree...  who are trying to formulate this postpostdubstep moment, write up it as an adventure.

And everybody deserves a shot at making their own time seem and feel like an adventure.

Good luck to them.

No comments: