[The Audiofiles] Much Ado About Dubstep

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There’s something to be said for the recent and exponential growth of the Electronic Music industry – you can look at it like a supply and demand market if you want: there is a ridiculous demand for heavy drops and succulent progressive house jams right now and they’re making their way to your radio waves, commercials, TV shows and more.  Electronic Dance Music, better known to us kandi kids as EDM is more than a musical movement, or a pop culture phenomenon; this is our subculture, this is our way of life.

When I started in on the scene in 2006, I knew little to nothing about what I was getting myself into. I was open minded and wide eyed; immersing myself into a way of life that had been essentially forbidden.  Not on anyone else’s volition, mind you, but growing up I was a pretty straight edge girl with a head solidly placed on her shoulders.  The more I grow into myself, the more starry-eyed and in awe I become; the more I stay the course, the more rewarding it becomes.  No longer am I confused by genre infused mashups or the DJ that flocks to vinyl over CD-Js: I’m in it for the music; I’m in it for the love.

My first big event was Electric Daisy Carnival.  Just remember, this is pre-Vegas, pre-LA even – this was back when the event was a one day, family friendlier festival out at the NOS Center in San Bernardino.  I remember walking in, arms firmly linked through a best friend on each side. I was trying to figure out which side of the rabbit hole I wanted to wake up on; I was trying to come to terms with my world spinning  inside out and upside down. Girls in neon tutus blocked every other turn but we were always greeted with friendly smiles, open arms and PLUR handshakes.

About ten minutes into the festival, my friends nodded in symmetry and announced they wanted to sit down and chat. I nodded in turn, but in silent agreement that I wasn’t in the mood for those kind of shenanigans.  I did a quick gut check and dove right in; or at least – tried to.  I must have looked as out of place as I felt, because immediately a charming sprite of a girl grabbed my arms and insisted I follow her to the dance floor. “Is this your first EDC?” she mused, but didn’t wait for a reply because she already knew the answer.  “You need to let it go…” she continued, her eyes dilating with excitement “…let it all fall down; shake it off and breathe it in.” She was speaking in tongues but I understood every word.  One by one, my hands wound up entwined between her delicate fingers and then, with glee, she announced my next move: “Spin! Faster! And now, just let it go…”  For the next five minutes,  I twirled with the delight of a toddler and every preconception I had about that night washed over and off of my like Spring rain.  She smiled whimsically, like whatever magicians trick she pulled actually produced a rabbit out of a hat.  She smiled with satisfaction; I smiled back in wonderment.  We hugged and danced off in different directions – but the lesson remains:  I haven’t been the same since.

Yo Dawg - Yo dawg, I heard you like subgenres So we put some chiptek in your jungle trance so you can glitchstep while you trapstyle

That night, I was exposed to live Trance and Progressive House for the first time: Above and Beyond floored me,  Kaskade’s deep house struck a chord, Benny Benassi could do no wrong behind the decks and Guetta was still a respectable name in the business.  But what my friends didn’t tell me about Trance and House was that they’re gateway genres.  What they should have said is: this is your brain on bass; this is your brain during the drop.  The Bloody Beetroots lead a nice segue into Electro House, and I was blown away by the rock infused Drum & Bass that I got from Chase & Status.  There was Deep House, Breakbeats, Minimal, Vocal Trance…..head on over to Beatport right now and just see for yourself: it’s genres on genres on genres.

One of the things that I find most intriguing about the EDM Industry itself is their consistent ability to essentially reinvent the electronic wheel;  the best examples of these are Trap and Dubstep.   Personally, I don’t know how many times you can reinvent the wheel before it’s no longer a wheel but that’s besides the point right now. Most people would be (incorrectly) lead to believe these are band spankin’ new areas of uncovered music, those of us that have been around longer than a minute recognize the first as an homage to the bass heavy instrumentals from mid to late 90’s hip-hop and rap songs and the later is very reminiscent of the heavy, industrial rock sound of the 90’s that was fueled by groups such as Korn, System of a Down, Disturbed and more.  For those of you that have been in a mosh-pit at an Atreyu show and then tried to navigate one at a Borgore or Noisia show, you’ll find that the crowds and subcultures themselves have eerie similarities.

There’s been more than a little debate about the roots of Dubstep.  Korn, for example, believes they played a pivotal role; in an interview from 2011, their frontman Jonathan Davis claimed that “Dubstep is the new metal” and I 110% agree; then, on the other end of the spectrum is the famed Timbaland, who also believes he should be accredited with the rise of the genre, claiming that his bass heavy music of the 90’s helped the genre rise to its current state.  But what exactly is Dubstep? Glad you asked!

Dubstep evolved from the intermingling of the Garage and Reggae scenes in the UK during the early 80’s and late 90’s. Some of Dubstep’s biggest giveaways are the syncopated percussion and drum patterns layered over sub-bass that’s all over your face: it can rattle you, floor you, bring the house down and bring your spirits up.  The average tempo on any given House song can range from 115 to 135 BPM, Trance can be from 130 to 160 BPM and Dubstep tends to stick to 140 BPM for beat heavy tracks – but when there’s ’empty space’ between the notes, which is one of the primary differences between UK Dubstep and the tracks coming out of the USA, we consider it to actually be around 70 BPM. Though it’s been around for the upwards of the last three decades, the genre didn’t nosedive into popularity until the early 2000’s when a clear distinction could finally be made between 2-Step, Dubstep and Grime and it’s really been in the last two years that the US has seen its exponential rise in popularity.

Acts like Bassnectar and Nero give you more than a show, they give you an experience.  I’ve been to a Bassnectar show where he spun live using not two, but four Ableton machines.  About halfway through his epic set, a fire alarm was inadvertently set off – being the genius that he is, Bassnectar, better known to his friends as Lorin, created a beat that covered up the fire alarm for the rest of the night.  It wasn’t until the house lights were brought on that we recognized it’s faint screeching. Nero got together with BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra to produce the first, and hopefully not last, Dubstep Symphony.


Of all EDM genres, one thing I’ve discovered is that Dubstep is by far the most polarizing; by far the best example is Skrillex, who’s either hailed as a musical genius or mocked as the modern day version of a dial-up modem.  Love it or loathe it, one thing’s for sure: Dubstep is here to stay. But is it really music?  Though there are throws of young 20-somethings that would agree quicker than the bass drops, there are multitudes of music aficionado that would vehemently disagree: it’s nothing but noise.  But thanks to the evolution of technology, and some daring and creative individuals in the past – we have valid argument for the actual genius of Dubstep.

As with most trends, this one has gone mainstream and in a big way.  Just to get a picture of the reach and popularity that the genre has attained, take into account the following:

For the State of the Union Address the other week, the White House released a very socially savvy and media forward YouTube announcement that included, believe it or not, Dubstep.

The hilarious and ever on point Key and Peele poked fun at Dubstep in one of their most recent skits:

And last, but definitely not least – the Harlem Shake has swept our Nation faster than an epidemic.  It’s hard to pick a favorite video, but someone’s gotta do it.

For a final and definitive look into what actually made Dubstep explode onto the scene, peep the infographic below – and don’t forget to shove a little bass in your face; it is the weekend after all!

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About missamandapearl

♥ I'm a spunky girl with a big heart and an open mind. I can't ride a bike and dislike capital letters. I'm slightly obsessed with my kitties - Daisy, Stella, Loki and Marley - but I bet if they were yours you would be, too. I laugh all the time - loudly and mostly at myself. my favorite things include, but aren't limited to: fabulous people, my fantastic husband-to-be, traveling, live music, social media, a good read, working out, furry friends, the Golden State Warriors, photography, and sushi. Everyone, including you, looks like an animal - and I won't hesitate to tell you which one. I was born and raised in the 650, spent some of the best years of my life at UCSB as a gaucho and am now a proud angelino; its taken some time, but I effing love└A.

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  1. Pingback: The Audiofiles: Lightning in a Bottle Preparation, Round 1 | The Bouncy Kitty

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