Tag Archives: dubstep

Luvstep Live at the Mad Decent Block Party

As I walked up 12th Street in Philadelphia on my way to the Mad Decent Block Party, I heard the unmistakable, soothing sounds of luvstep. The set marked the live debut of luvstep, the dubstep subgenre identified by Dirty South Joe and Flufftronix earlier this year on their mix of the same name. It was one of the many can’t-miss sets during the day. Luckily for those who missed it, the proverbial tape was running and the set is now available for download.

An introduction from Ten Things I Hate About You sets the tone: melancholic, bittersweet, and teeming with raw emotion. The 30-minute mix kicks off strong with tracks by Sky Ferreira and Nero, before revisiting essential tracks (Caspa’s remix of the Deadmau5 & Kaskade collab “I Remember”) and dropping new popstep heat (the trio of “Hold On,” “I Need Air,” and “Katy on a Mission”).

“PClart” by Kavsrave has been floating around for a few months; the female vocals and wonky bass are a perfect fit for the mix. The same is true of the “Edge of Seventeen”-sampling “Days Go By” by the Boogaloo Crew (who now are part of Future Grooves featuree Dark Sky). The mix closes with some Don Juan DeMarco:

“There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.”

For dubstep, a genre derided for its harsh sounds and bromantic attitude, only luvstep can save it.

Tracklist for Luvstep Live at the Mad Decent Block Party
Introduction: KATARINA
Sky Ferreira – One (Bar9 Remix)
Nero – Innocence
Deadmau5 – I Remember (Caspa Remix)
Rusko – Hold On (feat Amber Coffman)
Magnetic Man – I Need Air
Katy B – Katy On A Mission
Professor Green ft Lily Allen – Just Be Good To Me (Joker Remix – Fluff’s Greenless Dub)
M83 – We Own The Sky (Udachi Remix)
Kavsrave – PClart
Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love (DZ Remix)
Guido – Mad Sax
The Boogaloo Crew – Days Go By
The Living Graham Bond – Winter Hunter ft Fiona Bevan (Bare Noize Remix)
Epilogue: DON JUAN

Rusko unearths the Lost Dubs

Fresh off some Twitter beef with Deadmau5, dubstep meistro Rusko recently released two volumes of unreleased material, for free and through Twitter. Perhaps inspired by Skream’s Freeizm EPs, The Lost Dubs contains some material that pre-dates even his earliest releases, with tracks from 2004 and 2005.

As the name suggests, these dubs are steeped in reggae and dancehall grooves, from the slinky guitar chords on “Gyal Dem Inna Codeine Style” to the wandering bassline on his remix of Skream’s “Dutch Flowers.” The tracks are an interesting look at Rusko’s early material: “Jump Up” sounds like an underdeveloped version of breakout single “Cockney Thug.”

While these dubplates trace the straight line between reggae and dubstep, they also show synergy between dubstep and hip-hop. “Get down low” mashes a pretty straight-forward rap with wobbly bass for a banger that presages Caspa’s “How Low Can You Go” remix.

Unfortunately, there are no hidden gems on these EPs; these are basically demo tapes. Still, the Lost Dubs are required listening for Rusko devotees. A third volume is to follow, which will continue to fill in the blanks of one of the biggest names in dubstep.

Dubstep goes pop

As a genre, dubstep has reached a precipice. With successive releases by Rusko and Skream, and the highly-anticipated released by Magnetic Man around the corner, the mainstreaming of dubstep appears to have begun. The beats are still aggressive, the bass is still wobbly, but the music is easier to digest, due in large part to trance-like diva vocals. Unlike the darker, groovier luvstep, this “popstep” is just that – suitable for larger audiences ready to dance. Here are a few of the songs (and videos) you need to know:

Rusko, with a little help from Dirty Projector Amber Coffman, broke the scene wide open with “Hold On.” And if the crowds in the video are any indication, he may be on to something. All of a sudden, his upcoming Britney Spears collaboration makes a lot more sense. Also of note: his remix of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.”

Magnetic Man, the dubstep supergroup formed by Brits Skream, Benga and Artwork, has scored a top ten hit in the UK with “I Need Air.” The trio destroyed the crowd at Hard NYC, a performance that certainly converted non-believers.

The next single off Magnetic Man’s October 4 debut is the shifty “Perfect Stranger,” featuring UK funky chanteuse Katy B. The song alternates between downtempo verses and a breakbeating chorus, and it closes out Magnetic Man’s recent Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1.

No mention of Katy B can be made without also dropping her solo single (over a Benga track), the addictive “Katy B on a Mission.”

For fans of electronic music who want to see the scene grow while also maintaining some sense of musical integrity, popstep is a way forward. While it may be anathema to dubstep purists, wouldn’t you rather see the likes of Rusko and Skream headlining three nights at the 9:30 Club?

Album Review: Skream – Outside the Box

Dubstep is at the fork in the road that every genre eventually reaches: the point where artists either attempt to crossover, or forgo mainstream success and go further underground. Like Rusko before him, dubstep pioneer Skream has opted for the former with his latest album, Outside the Box (dropping in early August). Unfortunately, a number of half-measures finds Skream uneasily positioned between the two paths.

Outside the Box features many of Skream’s trademarks: stuttering two-step beats, sparse compositions, and robust bass. It suffers, however, by not putting its best foot forward. After the echo-filled atmospherics of “Perforated,” the album slips into the lame chiptune of “8-bit” (unaided by the milquetoast rapping by Murs) and then “CPU,” which highlights the regrettable vocoded lyric “I am your computer” ad nauseum.

The album picks up from there, with some strong vocal-led tracks (the diva R&B of “I Love the Way” being the strongest) and “Fields of Emotion,” the song most reminiscent of Skream’s breakthrough hit “Midnight Request Line.” Lead single “Listenin’ To the Records On My Wall” is all rave nostalgia, the titular records some combination of jungle and drum & bass. The video for “Listenin’…” is an ambitious take on creation, a theme that fits the nature of the song.

“Wibbler” attacks like old-school Skream with its unrelenting, headbanging wobble; it’s the lone aggro track on the record. The rest of Outside the Box combines warm synths and relatively straight-forward beats. “The Epic Last Song” tries to live up to its grandiose title with a jungle backbeat and colliding synthlines.

Skream teams up with La Roux on “Finally,” but can’t quite capture the magic of his “In for the Kill” remix; the build to the chorus relies too much on the thin voice of La Roux’s Eleanor Jackson. The track will probably be the album’s second single, which speaks to the overall quality of the album as a crossover attempt.

In crafting dubstep palatable to a mainstream audience, Skream removes too many of its hard edges. The mellow tracks aren’t minimal, they’re just boring. The problem is reinforced by the weakness of the album openers. Despite a few highlights, not living up to the high standards he has set makes the album a disappointment. Contrary to the title, Skream doesn’t move Outside the Box, he just chips away until there isn’t much left of it.


Future Grooves: Flux Pavilion

One of the biggest dubstep tunes this year has to be Doctor P’s “Sweet Shop.” A little digging into Doctor P will net you associate Flux Pavilion. The duo have been making music together for years, and their latest venture was founding Circus Records, the Greatest Show on Earth for grimey, filthy dubstep.

Flux Pavilion (aka Joshua Steele) is another North Londoner churning out wobble-friendly, aggro-dubstep. Over just a few singles, he’s making a name for himself in the dubstep scene. His “Got 2 Know” is a downtempo jam with 90s keyboard synths, big grinding bass and vocals like those in “Sweet Shop.”

Flux also dabbles in some of the other UK dance flavors, like on the dancehall gem “Night Goes On,” or the luvstepper “Voscilate.” On the latter, he is both behind the boards and the mic, and the song shifts effortlessly between R&B influenced two-step and massive double-time wobble.

Still, when it comes to Flux Pavilion’s tracks, one thing is true: the dirtier the better. “How Rude” and “Show Off” use samples that lead some to call his work “pornstep.” Hear for yourself why on “Show Off,” a track that starts serenely enough before exploding into dubstep madness.

Flux Pavilion, Doctor P, and the whole Circus Records crew are producers to watch for pure dubstep bangers. Check out this mix the pair did for Ego Thieves for a taste of what’s to come under the big top at Circus Records.

Mishka gets dark with Deathface

New York clothing line / record label / rules of the universe Mishka are underground tastemakers. Their designs have defined hipster chic since its founding in 2003, and its series of Keep Watch mixtapes has been just that: mixes from some of the fastest rising stars in electronic dance music. Major Lazer, Rusko, Skream, and Nadastrom are just some of the acts that have contributed to the series in what is becoming an underground rite-of-passage.

Next up is recent Trouble & Bass signee Deathface. As Deathface, Johnny Love – formerly of Guns ‘n’ Bombs – is leading the way in creating dubstep that is sonically and thematically darker than ever before. His Horror EP is equal parts bass and blood, and his Mishka mix is no different.

The mix starts our ominously enough, with the grim horns of Benga‘s “Rock Music” descending into some two-step wobble. Goth-wave duo Blessure Grave are given remix treatment on “Strangers in the House,” set to be the first release from Mishka’s record label.

The entire mix is an unrelenting, dark grindfest, but it really hits it’s stride about midway through, as Deathface’s remix of the Mexican Institute of Sound’s “Cumbia” fades into hit-of-the-moment “Sex Sax.” When Mishka says, “Keep Watch,” it’s best to listen.

Skream and a summer of dubstep

Dubstep pioneer Skream has a busy summer ahead of him. The 24-year old producer (born Oliver Jones) had two of the biggest bangers of 2009, with his remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill” and his original composition “Burning Up.” His 2010 is set to meet and exceed those heights.

Benga, Artwork, and Skream are Magnetic Man

First up is new material from Magnetic Man, the dubstep supergroup comprised of Skream, Benga, and Artwork. Readying their debut full-length, the trio will drop lead single “I Need Air” on July 26th. The single, with vocals by Angela Hunte, has cross-over written all over it. Magnetic Man will also be hitting major summer festivals, but alas, none in the US.

When not recording and performing with his partners-in-grime, Skream is preparing for an August release of his second full length, entitled Outside the Box. As a treat for fans, he recently dropped four free tracks on Twitter.

The Freeizm EP (a play on earlier Skreamizm EPs) contains two originals and two remixes. “Cut Like a Buffalo” gives an ominous, garage-feel to the Dead Weather track. Pitchshifted vocals on “Show Me Love” are attributed to “Robert S” – instead of club queen Robin S – on a reworking of the dance classic (and TGRI theme song).

On his original compositions, “Pitfall” is more harder-edge dubstep and “Minimool” is sweeping future funk (not quite minimal, as the title would suggest). Are these Skream’s best tracks? Not by a long-shot. But they whet the appetite of fans waiting for an album full of bangers like these:

Dubstep Dossier: B. Rich

Like most liquors, dubstep can be enjoyed on its own but really shines when combined with complimentary flavors.* While some producers choose R&B and B-more club mixers, others opt for electro and house. Pittsburgh’s B. Rich is one producer making such club-ready dubstep cocktails.

B. Rich (aka Barrett Richards) is another ex-club kid obsessed with bass. His tracks bounce with the non-stop beats of electro, the ravey synths and vocals of house, and the machine-gun wobble of dubstep. A song like “Killin It” on his Make Me Dance EP bangs with a best-of-all-worlds approach.

Lost among the superb remixes by Nadastrom and Dave Nada, B. Rich’s remix of Udachi’s “P-Funk Skank” is a fantastic 90s meets 00s take on the underground hit. And while he pulls from all types of EDM, hip-hop is also a defining characteristic of his sound. Just check the “Pop Bottles” sampling on the recently released “We Ball Harder.”

B. Rich has remixed and been remixed by A.C. Slater and the Trouble & Bass crew, who he’ll be joining tonight at U Hall for the T&B monthly basstravaganza. This hour-long promo mix, featuring previous Dubstep Dossier features Redlight and Doctor P, finds B. Rich moving all along the electronic music spectrum. So check the mix, grab a drink, and meet us on the dance floor.

* All alcohol-related inquiries should be handled by our friends the Edukatorz.

Dubstep Dossier: Mensah

Dubstep is coming of age when our appetite for new music exceeds the output of our favorite musicians. As most producers forgo full-length albums for the drip drip drip of singles and EPs, the thirstiest fans seek out new music, carefully distinguishing oasis from mirage.

For fans of Bristol uber-producer Joker, newcomer Mensah appears to be the real thing. His Untitled Future Funk EP contains six heavy slabs of the purple-toned dubstep Joker is known for. Throughout the EP, melodic synth waves cascade over shuffling, two-step beats. Mensah’s toolbox isn’t limited to the staples of the sound, however. On “Rock City,” a grungy, distorted guitar riff collides head-on with a exotic synthlines. For a genre known for aggressive, mosh-pit sounds, the guitar is criminally underutilized by Mensah’s peers.

The simply-titled “Acid Dub” is the most dancefloor-ready cut. “Come with me,” it implores, down a rabbit hole of big beat and jungle, before opening up onto a vista of halftime house. The track is aggressive without being abrasive, a fine line that many dubsteppers have trouble walking.

While dubstep devotees wait for the next release from the enigmatic and elusive Joker, producers like Mensah are more than happy to develop the genre. So check out this sick mix that he put together for Disrupt on Inc. And remember, don’t fear the wobble.

Dubstep Dossier: Benga

Dubstep is a genre defined by bass. So what happens when a dubstep producer adds other bass-centric music – like Baltimore club – to the mix?

Seminal dubstep producer Benga‘s latest EP, Phaze One, does just that, laying down eight Bristol-meets-Baltimore bangers. Benga (real name Benga Adejumo) has been producing tracks since 2002, when grime first evolved into dubstep. His Diary of an Afro Warrior is a genre-defining record, full of stuttering two-step beats, ominous synths, and of course, heavy doses of stomach churning wobble. His breakout track was 2007’s dubstep anthem “Night,” a collaboration with fellow dubstepper Coki.

For fans of his earlier work, Phaze One does not disappoint. Most of the tracks cover familiar bro-step territory, like the grimey “eyeTunes” and “Your Band (Descending).” Even “Rock Music,” which starts with uncharacteristic timpani and strings, devolves into an abrasive grinder. But the most surprising tracks are where Benga play outside of his usual sandbox.

The EP is bookended by two tracks that would feel right at home in Baltimore. The succinctly titled “Baltimore Clap” combines a steady beat with a rising synth-line and some pulsing sub-bass. “No Bra, No Panties” may be the better combination of styles, with it’s airhorn-versus-sawtooth melody and lyrics that consist of “No bra / no panties / you playin’ yourself.” This one is definitely ready for the club, whether you’re in Bristol or Baltimore. And remember, don’t fear the wobble.