This year, Valentine’s Day meant more than just flowers, chocolates and ham-fisted attempts at romance. It also marked the release of Luvstep, a long-awaited mixtape by Dirty South Joe and Flufftronix on the Mad Decent Radio podcast. The Luvstep mix codified a developing trend in dubstep and bass sounds, away from the metallic and industrial and towards the melodic and orchestral. Introducing the mix was Philadelphia’s Starkey, a DJ/producer whose sonic output fully fits within the luvstep realm, even if he opts for the grimier “street bass” descriptor.
Starkey’s debut full-length, Ear Drums and Black Holes, released last month on Planet Mu, is a monument to how far dubstep has come. Throughout its 15 songs, Starkey pays tribute to two-step, garage, grime, and all the musical seeds that have cross-pollinated to form dubstep in 2010.
On opening track “OK Luv,” waves of shimmering synths and chiptune effects build over a stuttering shuffle, a pattern that repeats on tracks like “11th Hour” and “Four Dimension.” “Stars,” the first single from Ear Drums, puts the warbling synths and vocals by Anneka in the front of the mix for a chilled-out feel. Starkey does get grimey, too, opting for pnuematic, grinding bass and epic, siren-like instrumentation on tracks like “Spacecraft.”
Rappers Cerebral Vortex and P-Money turn the clock back to the grime glory days, reminding rappers, both underground and mainstream, that these gurgling instrumentals are the perfect complement to rhymes, once you master the two-step rhythms. Starkey proved this on his remix of Gorilla Zoe’s “Lost” for the ATL RMX album.
With dubstep producers like Rusko and Skream bringing back the rave, the scene needs a producer to advocate for luvstep. If Ear Drums and Black Holes is any indication, Starkey is more than capable. And remember, don’t fear the wobble.