Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bass Bits # 10 - UK Garage + 2step

UK garage presents similar problems to Jungle  

Speed garage basically is the addition of bruising baleful bad-boy B-lines to house.

With 2step, the finicky focus of science shifts to the stop-start beats - that's the most attention-seeking part of any production

But the bass gets really creative too - intricately syncopated patterns that weave around the beats, melodic but thud-boom impactful too

Often they're bringing back the reggae feel that had faded out from drum & bass in 96-97

But more lover's rock in vybe than roots 'n 'dubsway

Although you get that too sometimes. 

So many to choose...

Gant "Sound Bwoy Burial (187 Lockdown Remix)" - love the sort of braying blare of the bass on this swaggering monster of "ruffhouse"

Nuyorican Soul "Runaway (Mongoloids in Space)" -  Americans, so doesn't really count, but the kind of music that inspired the UKG crew, although what they did, didn't end up sounding much like this supremely elegant and musical stuff.

The bass takes a while to come in with this - 3.46 or thereabouts - but it's worth the weight.

Roy Davis Jr featuring Peven Everelist, "Gabriel" -  now would I be wrong in thinking that the reason this became such a scene-formative anthem in the UK is because it was a track giving unusual prominence and melodic-emotional weight to the bassline, compared with the US garage norm? 

Sneaker Pimps, "Spin Spin Sugar (Armand's Dark Garage Mix)" - Van Helden is one of the very first to work out the simple additive logic of sexy  house beat + rude jungle bassline = perfection. 

KMA Productions, "Cape Fear" - R U Feeling Wobbly?

From my "Feminine Pressure" piece in The Wire

"KMA’s “Cape Fear” combined breakbeat rhythms, ominous ‘video vocals’ and destabilising ‘bass warps’ that triggered crowd pandemonium the very first time the tune was played out, in late 96. “You could see the goosebumps rising on everybody’s neck, the hair standing on end,” says KMA producer/vocalist Six. “The crowd erupted, they were so confused about what just happened they forced the DJ to rewind the track.” 

The track originally started as a jingle on Six's radio show: 

Gisele Jackson "Love Commandments (Loop Da Loop vocal mix)" - the bass is banging on this - literally banging. 

Doolally's "Straight From the Heart" has got that skanking feel

Dreem Teem remix of Amira's "My Desire" - the tender B-line - like a heart skipping a beat, like butterflies in the stomach -  conveys the pangful tentativeness of love before it's certain of being requited

Steve Gurley remix of Operator and Baffled's "Things Are Never" - mystifyingly not on YouTube... until now!

Doom-boom menace... ominous sensuality

Talking about sensual menace... Groove Chronicles's "Stone Cold"

jazzual and bumpy until about 2-30 then in comes the baleful Reese-bass lick 

Grant Nelson feat Jean McClain "Step 2 Me (Bump N Flex Steppers Dub)" -- Grant crediting himself twice in this auto-remix. And why not - it's slamming.

Angel Farringdon + Lil Smokey, "Clean Riddem" - gorgeous little roller. On Johnny Biscuit Records! "This tune may seriously damage your health"!

U.S. Alliance - "All I Know (Da Grunge Mix)" - dem's Dem 2. Deadly precision, lethal detail. 


New Horizons, "Slamdown".  From the "Scrap Iron Dubs" EP! Bleepazoid brutalizm. But also distantly related to PiL's "Albatross", I like to think. 

By "late 2step," the bass starts to take on this wet-look, oily slickness.  A technoid, even Photek-y scientific-ness enters the production, that would be very formative on dubstep, which early on was basically UK Garage minus songs. 

Groove Chronicles, "Black Puppet"

But you were still getting the odd rude 'n ' jaunty tune like this -  

Napa-Tac "Dibby Dibby Sound"

A darker dub mix of that little gem. 

Still the general trend was in the "Flat Eric" direction... for better or worse (worse, on the whole, I'd say)

Example of Flat Eric-ism -  this crossover-from-another-scene-entirely - Timo Maas the squelch monster.

That one exhausted my interest fairly quickly at the time - it's here as a sort of historical note more than a Thumbs Up For All Time.

Not sure if this is the DJ Narrows tune that grabbed my ear at the time but it does show off his slimy, writhy bass-worms approach - to be influential on later developments in nuum-bass. 

In the late phase of 2step, the other big future-leaning direction was garage rap. 

Looking for this, I discovered there was actually a full vocal version of So Solid Crew "Dilemma", with terrible dated rapping on top. I had always thought it was only ever an instrumental, on account of first hearing it on a 2step compilation. Notable for its "single-note sustained bassdrone veering upward in pitch". A premonition of the colder, harder, electro-dancehall sound of grime production.

Apologies to the 1843 tunes unmentioned in this necessarily truncated and incomplete post!