Tag Archives: skream

EP Roundup: Munchi / Bok Bok / Skream

Three major names in underground electronic music released EPs, and each deserves a close listen. Don’t sleep on any of these future grooves.

MunchiRotterdam Juke

Ever since his remix of Nguzunguzu’s “Unfold,” bassheads have eagerly awaited more juke from Munchi. With the release of the Rotterdam Juke EP, Munchi delivers: over six tracks, Munchi presents a unique view of Chicago from a Dominican living in Rotterdam.

After a few months of hardship, Munchi announces his triumphant return with “Mi Ta Bek,” which features the iconic “guess I got my swagga back” sample (Jay Z by way of Datsik and Excision). The track, along with “Mamajuana,” have the same type of colliding beats of “Murda Sound,” off the EP of the same name.

As always, Munchi’s melting pot style is on full display. The sweet sorrow of Dominican bachata compliments the rapid-fire toms of juke on “Andando,” and only Munchi has the audacity to sample Rage Against the Machine’s “Bull On Parade” – and the ability to pull it off – like he does on “Paperchase.” “Straat Taaki” (“Street Talk”) has less overt juke influence, but the raw, uneven traphouse beat is straight gangsta. The stand out track is “Yazzer Tin Air Max,” which is pure, uncut footwork.

Bok BokSouthside EP

Night Slugs co-founder Bok Bok takes a break from running the world’s hottest electronic label to release his first ever solo EP. With an 808 in one hand and a 303 in the other, Bok Bok is at his finest, crafting dark, sexy soundscapes that push the boundaries of post-dubstep/post-UK funky dance music.

On “Charisma Theme,” airy synths permeate a sensual beat that has that Night Slugs je ne sais quoi. “Hyperpass” is unrelenting tech house, and “Reminder” has exotic synth lines that give it an Eastern feel. Southside closes with the sinister grime of “Silo Pass” and “Look Dub;” the former is a more dense composition, but the latter imbues the empty space with eeriness.

SkreamSkream EP

While Bok Bok takes a break from his, Skream disengages from Magnetic Man for a major release on his own label. The self-titled EP on Disfigured Dubz brings together four tracks that Skream has been annihilating audiences with. “Heavy Hitter” and “Rigging” have the midrange wobble of “classic” dubstep; while done to death by other producers, the technique still feels vital in Skream’s hands. “Sea Sick” does the same, with descending synths that perfectly capture the feeling of the song’s title. The best track is “Hats Off,” where he returns to the well, combining a Loleatta Holloway vocal and the “amen” break into something more ravey than his breakthough hit “Burning Up.”

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.


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 #2

Dubstep and drum-and-bass are kissing cousins, so it’s no surprise to see DnB producers slow down their breakbeats and get in on the subsonic fun. Both lend themselves to massive, enveloping tracks where bass, drums, and synths build and crash like the soundtrack for the Apocalypse, just at different tempos.

Mt Eden, a producer out of New Zealand, has successfully made the transition from DnB to dubstep by remixing and reworking a wide range of tracks. The key for Mt Eden (real name Jesse Cooper) is finding songs with a solid sense of atmosphere and melodrama, qualities that are accentuated by the addition of some wobble: Bat for Lashes’ “Daniel” and Imogen Heap’s “Let Go,” for example.

His track “Sierra Leone” relies on a sample from Freshlyground’s “I’d Like,” adding the original’s trademark ohhs and ahhs to an oscillating bassline and a jumpy backbeat:

Back in the UK, DJ Fresh (of DnB collective Bad Company) also seems to be moving in a dubstep direction. “Fight,” off his upcoming record Kryptonite, features cinematic strings and somber female vox until the chirps and squeals of a tortured synth enter the picture:

Dubstep pioneer Skream‘s nods to DnB are more apparent. His remix of La Roux’s “In for the Kill” (already a dubstep classic) descended into ravey madness with a huge breakbeat. His remix of Zomby’s “Float” is an even more overt DnB revival. The track (with its hilariously cumbersome title “Skream’s I was in infants school where were you in 92 mix”) is monumental: when the bass drops, you just may float off the dance floor:

With the emergence of dubstep and the re-emergence of drum-and-bass, songs that borrow from both genres are sure to be a staple for bass fanatics everywhere. And remember, don’t fear the wobble.

Bonus! Crossover Alert: Caspa – dubstep legend and frequent Rusko collaborator – lends his remix skills to Ludacris’ dance floor sensation “How Low” with fantastic results. Caspa replaces the original’s electro accents with a more bass-heavy feel, and gives the chorus a grinding beat that sounds just like the club-tech of Nadastrom’s remix of “A Milli.” Apparently, you can get even lower with dubstep.