Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ender's Game

So dubstep has arrived. Officially. I don't say that because it's being used to sell cereal and sneakers and electronics (it's not...yet). I don't say that because Diplo has finally slapped the Mad Decent stamp of approval on the genre with Blow Your Head: This is Dubstep (he has, and it's not bad). And I don't say that because Madonna's new album is all dubstep produced by Skream or Rusko or whoever else might be the go-to dubstep producer of the moment (though I will not be surprised if that's EXACTLY what Madge's new album eventually sounds like, given her flavor-of-the-month output of late).

Dubstep has arrived because it's beginning to eat itself. For all you drum n'bass heads out there who are a little long in the tooth (like me), what's happening in dubstep now is beginning to look an awful lot like what happened to jungle after its initial underground explosion in the late 90s. Jungle was starting to blow up, you started hearing it on main stages and peak-time slots, rather than side-rooms. Artists from different genres started "experimenting" with the sound (cynical interpretation: trying to cash in on a budding new market). The music press started trying to churn out endless sub-genres (jump up, ragga, trance & bass, darkstep, techstep, etc.). And then along came Roni Size and Reprazent: a stable of "old school" jungle cats performing dnb "live" with a drummer (Si Begg) and live vocals. Suddenly, jungle wasn't side-room niche drug music, it was "respectable." (BTW, I saw Reprazent twice live, both times they absolutley murdered it!).

With the rise of all of this "respectable" attention, and the need to compartmentalize everything for the music press, the genre began to split into different camps: the posers who heard the Aphrodite/Jungle Brothers single and decided they liked jungle and/or could sell it to lots of new fans, and the "intelligent drum n'bass"/intelectuals who were "pushing the genre forward" and who looked down on all the jump-up hip-hop sounds, the kids who loved them, and the producers who were making it.

(SIDEBAR: is there a descriptive term MORE obnoxious than "intelligent drum n' bass"? Like, not all that stupid UNINTELLIGENT shit, it's "intelligent." I always felt bad for LTJ Bukem, purveyor of that smoother, broken-beat/liquid/atmospheric jungle sound, because record stores and magazines would aways slap the "intelligent drum n' bass" sticker on his cds and make him seem like some pretentious asshole, which I'm sure he wasn't, and I'm also sure he didn't think his music was "smarter" than anyone else's)

I think that's about where we are with dubstep right now (seriously, google "dubstep" + "commercial" and take a gander at all those complainers!). You've got a lot of people making ear-scorching wobble tunes at 70 bpm that sound great on a soundsystem with hands in the air and pupils dilated, and then you've got a lot of people claiming that the "scene is changing" and the music is getting diluted because the sound is starting to be appropriated by other artists/genres. You've got folks trying to distinguish between "legit/underground/artistic" dubstep and the pervasive (and some would say formulaic) wobble of the more "commercial" stuff. And with the release of Magnetic Man's self titled debut, and the critical acclaim it's received (including from me, who loves me some Magnetic Man), it appears dubstep is having its "Reprazent" moment, and tribal boundaries are being drawn.

I mention all of this for a few reasons. One, I was around for the explosion and subsequent implosion (and rebirth/realignment) of drum n' bass, and I am very interested to see if dubstep follows the same trajectory. And two, this new mix would probably be considered a little more "underground" than previous dubstep sets, embracing artists and sounds that I've heard described as futurestep, future garage, lovestep, breakstep, junglebreaks, 140bpm jungle, etc. To me, it's all bass music, and there's a time and a place for all of it. Like, I generally enjoy microbrewed/homebrew beer, but apprecaite that there is a time and a place for a 30-rack of light domestic beer. Same with bass music in general. Some of it is all drops and builds and face-melting wobble bass designed to slay a dancefloor, and some of it is a little more subtle, a little more intricate, maybe appreciated more in your headphones or in your car. But it's ALL GOOD, homie.

Usually in my mixes I try to incorporate a little of everything (a splash of Anchor Steam, a dash of porter stout, maybe a pint of cider, and a can or two of Bud Light), though this mix is light on Bud Light and heavy on the microbrew. But that doesn't make it "intelligent" or "underground" or better than any other style or micro-genre or sub-category being pushed by the latest issue of Knowledge or Mixmag, because, really, in the end, this is DANCE music, people, not an anthropology class. Don't worry about how "commercial" something is, or how "underground" it sounds. Look around. Are people dancing? Are you? Isn't THAT what's important?

Mantisounds - Ender's Game

1. Liondub & Matt Shadetek - the General Riddim (OG Riddim instrumental)
2. BangaTang - Bashful
3. Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine (Indaskyes & Tracksmyth Remix)
4. Hunter Vaughan - High Hopes
5. Eric Hassle - Hurtful (George Lenton Remix)
6. Bertie Blackman - Peekaboo (Marco del Horno Remix)
7. Excision & Datsik - Swagga (Homegrown & Nils Jumpen Mondays Afternoon Mix)
8. I.D. - Flay
9. the S.K. - Bass
10. George Lenton - Cold Rocker
11. Nero - Something Else
12. Downlink - Moonrock Badman
13. Nero - Bad Trip
14. Excision - Obvious
15. Skool of Thought - Heart of the Hood
16. I.D. - Akusative
17. JSaxton - Kick Snare Ganja Buddha
18. Ludwig Coenen - Green Movement (XI Bas Vapour Dub)
19. Doorly - UK Geee
20. Ramadanman - Offal
21. Redlight - Rock the House ft. the Voodoos
22. Foamo - Centavo (Warrior One Remix)
23. BSD - We Are Elektro


P.S. All you sci-fi nerds out there might recognize the cover artwork appropriated above. "Ender's Game" was one of my favorite books growing up. It's the story of Ender Wiggin, a child prodigy recruited into Earth's "Battle School", a training camp orbiting the planet designed to develop the planet's next great generals and warmakers in the ongoing battle against the evil alien "bugger" race (kind of Harry Potter meets Starship Troopers with less campy bullshit and magic wands). If you have not read this book, cop it in paperback (or eBook like the kids on their Kindles) and get busy!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I'm sure Andrew/Ender would have loved listening to this while piloting!

    Also, you mention Roni and Reprazent and that whole thing of playing with drummers/bands. Just *LAST NIGHT* I found/watched this video set of Ben Wa with Buckethead live from 1999 (are you crawling around in my brain!?):


    Thanks again for the great music!