I changed the name of this column from Dubstep Dossier to Future Grooves when the old moniker simply didn’t do justice to the evolving underground electronic music scene. Similar name changes and re-branding lets artists establish new identities and foray into new sounds.
xxxy is Rupert Taylor, who previously released straight-forward dubstep as Forensix(mcr). Early buzz for singles “Reflections” and “Science Fiction” earned him a spot on last year’s essential Elevator Music. The compilation, by quintessential club/label Fabric, curates the strand of mutated dubstep (future garage?) that xxxy and his peers excel at. His contribution to the mix, “Sing With Us,” is deep and funky, with blasts of jazzy live drums.
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/xxxy_sing.mp3″ text=”XXXY – Sing With Us” dl=0]
The title of his Every Step Forward EP was instructive; with every step into this developing sound, xxxy becomes stronger, with his productions more staggering and immersive. Each additional layer is a new adventure, without weighing down the groove. “This Much” and “Just For Me” tweak vocal samples into percussion, a tactic he has perfected on his new single, the sweltering “You Always Start It.”
The flipside to “You Always Start It” is “Ordinary Things,” a rhythm and bass tune powered by a four-on-the-floor house beat and arpeggiated synth chords. It’s no surprise that Pitchfork tagged the relentless track as Best New Music.
As dubstep gives way to future garage, we’ll need new ways to name and describe it. Along the way, we’re sure to encounter new names for old faces. xxxy is definitely one to look for.
Download: Exclusive mix for Urb.com
Once in a blue moon, a track will come along and capture the zeitgeist perfectly. For electronic music, the most recent example is “Wut” by London’s Girl Unit, which dropped last October on Night Slugs. The futuristic laser beam synths, tweaked out siren song sample, and massive 808 club rhythm of “Wut” are fast becoming the high watermark for dubstep-garage-funky hybrids.
The man behind “Wut,” Girl Unit, is 25-year old Phil Gamble. Like many of his peers, he started making beats as a teenager armed with Fruity Loops. He went by the name Girl U No It’s True, a tongue-in-cheek Milli Vanilli reference that he eventually shortened to his current moniker.
Starting with last April’s IRL EP, Girl Unit’s star has been steadily rising. “IRL” is a nasty little banger, combining the no-frills dubstep of Benga with the UK funky sound of his Night Slugs contemporaries. “Shade On” and “Temple Keys” were further dalliances with this hybrid sound; the jazzy keys on the latter a unique touch.
Following up IRL with the Wut EP, Girl Unit amped up the hip-hop and R&B influences considerably. “Every Time,” like “Wut,” relies on an unrecognizable diva loop, while “Showstoppa” has the big bass sweeps of a Rick Ross tune. The mid-tempo songs rock with a sexy swagger that is unrelenting and unforgiving. Throughout the EP, rat-a-tat drums evoke gangsterish drive-bys more than dancing in clubs.
In addition to his EPs, Girl Unit has remixed a few tunes with the same twisted approach he uses on his own material. His vinyl-only remix of Katy B’s “Lights On” is the best take on the track yet. His remix of C.R.S.T.’s “The Bells” strips away the funky house beat and feeds it syrup until it no longer resembles the original.
The usual suspects are onto Girl Unit, and you can’t blame them. His mixes for XLR8R, Fader, and Numbers show just how tight his control over his sound is.