Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Well I was saying I got more tingles from the Landstrumm ravestep sound than most dubstep I'd heard this year but there were tingles a-plenty at Dub War versus DMZ on Saturday. Intriguingly most of the tingles were during the early sets by Dave Quintiliani and Joe Nice, rather than the peak hour Mala and Loefah back-to-back session. Dave Q especially was dropping a lot of nonformulaic stuff, some of it on the outer periphery of the genre, including a mad squelchy 'n' skittery tune that sounded a bit like Basic Channel meets breakcore, these smeary thickly textured beats skidding and slipping all over the shop, a tune if I'd heard it in a different context I'd never have thought "dubstep" in a million years. (Dave tells me it's by an artist called 2562 and it's called "Channel two," boomkat are selling it as a download at

The two resident deejays were dropping loads of good stuff, some quite gloomcore in vibe, elsewhere you could really hear the mid/late drum'n'bass ancestry (there was a tune that sampled a very familar chopped up vocal lick that goes D-U-B, P-L-A etc etc then DUB-PLATE-BIZZ-NIZZ, I was trying to place it, thought it was some old DJ SS thing, Dave says it's "VIP" by Mark Omen and it actually a remix of Shy FX) [UPDATE: sez Droid is it "very cheeky" remix of DJSS's Black remix on Formation. And you can check it out here . Ha, vindicated! That's like 96, 97?]
Generally Nice and Q walked a fine line between educational and rocking the crowd.

Conversely Loefah and Mala played it rather safe, it was that peak hours logic of banger after banger after banger, which in dubstep's case seems to mean tracks based on a tight verging on constrictive formula: juddering bass riff and then running almost at a right angle across the bass/drums this sort of horizontal synth riff, a kind of grating bleat or mechanical quacking sound. They played about eight tunes on that formula, leavened with more digi-dubby stuff. And don't get me wrong, it was vibey, those juddering bass-dirges with the sub-lo impacts as heard through Love's amazing sound system drive the crowd absolutely bonkers, you got the whole drill of shouts for rewinds, lighters in air, brocking out. But stacked together in a row it makes for a bit of a changeless same.(Apparently Mala played his more adventurous material a few nights later at Cielo).

Anyway it struck me that the peak hours stuff corresponded to jump-up and the
stretching-out, varies wildly in tempo approach of the earlier deejays was equivalent to... not exactly "intelligent", cos it wasn't wishy-washy or coffee table, some of it was mad, but maybe the stuff Reinforced were doing by the mid-90s that hardly every got played out by djs at raves or on pirates. I thought it interesting that this populist/cerebral divide would get reconstituted within dubstep, when most
people outside the scene would view dubstep in its entirety as left-field, atmospheric, "deep", Wire-friendly, perhaps in opposition to the
the "shallower" (literally flatter, in terms of the sound design) and rowdier grime.

Speaking to Dave Q later that the night, he said the scene had become "conservative" and that he was keen to showcase the kind of forward-pushing, genre-stretching tunes. And in fact as well as playing them at Dub War he's going to be doing podcasts of that kind of stuff, the first one is accessible through the iTunes music store, if you search "Dub War NYC" you'll get it.

BTW the next Dub War is October 20, headliner is Vex'd doing a live set; I shall go early to catch the non-typical tunes.


Talking of the more atmospheric end of dubstep I did get a good tingle off
the latest release from Keysound Recordings, Dusk & Blackdown featuring Trim's "The Bits" b/w/ Blackdown "Northside Cheng Dub", excellent attention to the higher frequencies on both of these with a cobwebby skein of reverbed plinky patterns that's not a million miles from the where-idyllic-meets-eerie doilies of sound spun by The Focus Group. I thought it might be a hammered dulcimer, but Man like Martin tells me it's "a Chinese zither called the Cheng". Also hitting me where I live for different (nuum-ological not hauntological) reasons is Trim's interpolation of the vintage lick "it's a London thing" from the Scott Garcia/MC Styles classic.

Goodness gracious dearie me, is it really 10 YEARS since speed garage?


Gutterbreakz chips in on Neil Landstruum. He's right you know, it hasn't got that much empty space in it, it is cluttered. I think that's what I like about it actually, that "get busy cru" feeling. There's stuff on the record that reminds me a bit of Code 071, e.g. "London sumting": all three versions, from h-core to d&B. Elsewhere there's moments that remind me a tiny bit of Groove Chronicles circa "Black Puppet/1999" or Dem 2's "Bad Funk", again a busy, congested sound, 2step going dark and febrile. A sound that within the relentless forward-rush of the nuum could only exist for a moment, probably less than six months, so it never had a chance to spawn its albums, never had a chance to exhaust its possibilities. So what people like Landstruum can do now, at a time when the fwd-drive has slowed to a virtual halt, is go back and thoroughly explore/exploit these passed-over-too-quickly seams of sound. History has placed him in a position where he is able (and i think dubstep is doing this also; and in a different way, breakcore is too) to survey the whole length and breadth of the nuum's 15 years--1989 to 2003*--of full-tilt surge and combine this and that. In a way what happened with the nuum mirrors on a smaller scale what happened with rock, which is that at a certain point the sheer mass of the past as it accumulated behind the genre begins to exert a kind of gravitational pull; the sensation of movement, of going somewhere, can be satisfied as easily (well, in fact, more easily) by going backwards within that vastness than by going forward. It's still the exploratory impulse but it's like an archaeology of the recent past.

* yeah i would say the surge slows at 2003; that's when grime arrives at itself, as a style; 2004-2005 are the consolidation, the attempt to break through...


talking of archaeology and nuum-tangents (who remembers splatterbreaks? sort of breakcore w/ politics instead of parodics) here is a Neil at History Is Made At Night on the ultra-underground Brixton club Dead By Dawn. I get me knuckles rapped for getting the name wrong in Energy Flash!

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