Not long ago, dubstep generally consisted of dignified, subbed-out productions that would nebulously emerge from UK producers, pop up on Mary Anne Hobbs‘ radio show, and then be subsequently ignored by the general populace. Then, suddenly, it was everywhere. Blasting across subway aisles as tinny ringtones. Lurking in the productions of pop beasts like Britney. Filling massive arenas with people who want nothing more than to sweat and maybe see a dot onstage move his hands every four minutes. ‘Fuuuuuck youuuu, Skrillex!’ became the battle cry of those who remember a world without wobble.
There’s usually a very clear line drawn between fans of US dubstep and the UK version, the general consensus being that US dubstep=dorks too chubby for emo and too nerdy even for the metal scene, so they use this as an outlet for their post-teen aggression/Transformers fetish. Meanwhile, they argue that UK dubstep is made by and for aging reggae fans who pee themselves in rage whenever something steps outside their comfort zone. In some regards there’s truth in both, but in the end it’s the typical New vs Old argument, one that’s almost always generated in insular scenes that have unexpectedly exploded into the mainstream: ‘Eww, why do THEY get to be a part of MY social group?’ To arbitrarily declaim a new movement (and, by association, an entire genre of music) as being somehow ‘lesser’ is not only ignorant, it’s the worst sort of I-like-all-music-except-rap-and-country teenage cheesiness.
Some opinions are more moderate. “I can understand why people can’t get into first/second-wave dubstep stuff now, because having witnessed the progression of the different sounds and the initial changes it brought to club culture was the most exciting part about it,“ says Michail Stangl, member of the Berlin-based Leisure System partysquad. Understandable from that perspective, perhaps. But I don’t come from club culture. I was raised on a diet of punk, post-punk, experimental music and a heaping helping of Aaliyah and Biggie. My roots are in weirdness, brashness; I like change, and I treat musical genres as loosely as possible. So when I listen to Kode9 or Digital Mystikz, what I hear is not club music, but a pulsing bliss that shakes my body and makes my head swim. It’s clinical and methodical, but also feral—a dark jungle beast stalking down my spine. But when I want to slamdance myself bruised and bloody, nothing satisfies like the filth of Deathface, Bratkilla and Mantis. This is lurching bloodrave music, a parade of dumpsters being cut in half with chainsaws and then dropped off cliffs. It’s an entirely different world, closer to the harsh throb of industrial or the brutal thrash of hardcore than anything connected to introspection or club culture.
BlackBlackGold – The Red Crown (Mixtape for the Apocalypse)
As exploration into new sounds continues, the term ‘electronic music’ means both more and less than it ever has. The same holds true for dubstep (and at such a young age too! So precocious.) Purist attitudes kill music, but because of how easy it has become to pull in musical influences from around the world, its also second nature for a rising crop of young producers, artists, and freaks. As a genre, dubstep will mutate and evolve, as all things should. Maybe what it births will please your ears, and maybe not. But that doesn’t make any mutation of it less valid, nor should it stop you from exploring for yourself the different aspects buried within.
That said, there is still no excuse for a dubstep Korn album.
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization & aesthetics tumblr Gucci Goth.