Misc. Reviews

Next on deck: Get ready for dubstep

In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa uncannily summarized the next two decades of DJ/producer struggle with his track "Looking for the Perfect Beat." Whenever it seems we've finally arrived at that ultimate groove, the cultural paradigm shifts. Drum 'n' bass is a prime example — at first, the genre sounded like some mad artificial intelligence program making accelerated breakbeat patterns. But it failed with its increasing aggressiveness and abstraction. Today every breakbeat-focused attempt — broken beat, Nu Skool breaks, etc. — sounds two-dimensional, in part because they're all derived from funk rhythms.

In contrast, dubstep is a mostly South LondonÐemanating sub-subgenre that boldly rejects funk beats as its core rhythms. Built on the high-hat shuffles of U.K. two-step garage, but slowed to a resinous half-time tempo, dubstep achieves a sense of total otherness while comprising elements of larger genres. Jamaican dub fans will recognize claustrophobic echo chambers and phantom sub-basslines, but dubstep's few vocal samples don't preach Zionist optimism, and lilting island melodies don't soften its hard technical edge. Imagine dubstep as Lee "Scratch" Perry off his bipolar meds, driven to carry out Jah's vengeance on U.K. dance music for its frivolity.

Dubstep has yet to make a dent locally — and true, none of its producers currently hail from the States, but that situation didn't stop our embrace of drum 'n' bass in the '90s. Get in while the gettin's good: Catch local DJ Ripple weave a few tracks into his hybrid breakbeat sets (or available at www.subscience.org). For the purist hook-up, grab the three volumes of the mighty Dubstep Allstars import or download the weekly set on Australia's www.garagepressure.com and recordings of London pirate radio sessions at www.barefiles.com. The highest-profile broadcast is Mary Anne Hobb's Breezeblock on the BBC.

If you dig, bug your neighborhood promoter to take the next step and fly the cornerstone dubsteppers out — Britain's Skream, Digital Mystikz, Plasticman, and Slaughter Mob are pushing toward that elusive perfect beat and we deserve to hear 'em.

 
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