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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

THE ROOTS OF DUBSTEP

More Dark Garage Pressurrr....a double-pack of twelves accompanying "The Roots of Dubstep" CD compiled by the mighty Martin Blackdown and Ammunition Promotions. These are tunes that went missing in action the first time round, ignored by ignoramuses and numpties like meself. Still better late than never, eh: there's some deeeeep, deep tunes on these two twelves and those of you who, like me, have been living in the woods ever since the end of WW2, can now actually hear urban bass music slowly reconfiguring and hybridising itself (around 2001 - 2003) from UKG into strands of what would eventually become Grime and Dubstep. Many thanks to Appleblim and Sarah at Ammunition/Tempa for finally hipping me to these tunes...the CD is gonna be a monster! But, you know I loooove my vinyl.

There's a big blow-out to accompany the CD's release here. Everyone seems to be playing at this & I'm specially excited to find there's gonna be some vintage Dark Garage/Proto-Dubstep aktion by the likes of Artwork, El-B, Horsepower, etc. I'm currently negotiating w/ my wife and kids to attend, so hopefully see ya there, groovers...



Storm clouds gather and burst over the intro to El-B & Juiceman's "Buck and Bury", followed by lumpen, ratchet-like drums, hissing sounds, alien birds and ominously atonal strings. Brooding and eerily oppressive...daaaark, dense and hevvvvy: it soundtracks the unsettling sense of being pursued in a dream, Urban Dance Music's equivalent of Ernst's "Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale"...someone says "Zulu" and (what sounds like) "Internationale"...water flows somewhere in the distance and there's a strange vocal sound that resembles a strangulated gasp...

This is fucking thrilling stuff, built from some darkly-imaginative source material. Apparently, this is a lost Forward>> anthem from 2002, I think...originally released on Ghost, yeah? Forgive my fanboyish overenthusiasm, but this stuff is all relatively new to me...I filtered sideways-in to Dubstep and Grime a couple years or so ago, now I'm time-travellin' my way back thru this stuff. This is the anti-matter twin to Woebot's set: the charlie's turned sour; someone cut it with battery acid...the jittery beats are slowing, growing heavier and there's some creepy pre-voodoo atmospherics oozing into the sounds. Hey, where did all those nice-looking chicks go? Why's everyone lookin' at me like that...?

When Burial graciously chatted to me about music a few weeks back, I asked him what it was that he loved about El-B's beats and he told me (I could almost hear the griiin in his voice):

"El-B was wicked...he did the things that Drum n Bass was scared to do. He made the music up-front, sexy...but his drums are cold. They're totally cold. You can't get colder than his drums. They're not fat; they're just totally cold. It's pure rhythm. They're like wood-blocks. Every kick-drum is dead...shark-eyed... they're the drums that I love: dead-eyed. Totally cold. Everything you've got on top of that just sounds cool...it doesn't sound over-emotional. It just...glows, and that's the sound I love. A lot of good Dubstep tunes have that too...I think that what I mean is that the drums can be cold, but everything else can bubble away and do its thing, but it's not...it's not rage music...it dares to still be club music. It dares to roll...it rolls...yeah, it rolls."

"Star Wars (Hatcha VIP) by Benga is seriously fucken heavy, man; the musical equivalent of a giant Japanese Battle-Suit lumbering towards the listener: stark and spacious, the hats sounding like hisses of escaping gas betn the snares and kicks...this is some sick n minimal teenage Fruity-Loops shit, the soundtrack to a sinister self-aware arcade-game. What the fuck did the crowd think when Hatcha unleashed this on them in, what, 2002? Sounds like a cough-syrup'd-up Screw-Mix of a lost 1978 Human League b-side played at 16rpm. Jeeeeez...

Now, I'm on the edge of getting obsessed by Artwork...all because Skream was majorly enthuuusing and bigging him up down the phone to me: "Artwork! Artwork! Artwork!" he yelled at one point, "What can I fucking say, but: Artworkkk!" By complete coincidence, a couple days later I downloaded a Dark Garage mix and one of the tracks that particularly spun my head round turned out to be Artwork's "The Soul"...

Skream had been talking up the Artwork tune "Red" as a classik, so I was particularly chuffed to find this included in the vinyl-pak. Hmmm: crank this baby up on the speakers: this is niiiiice, much niiiicer than listenin' to a compress'd mp3 on tinny little h/phones...dark, phat and sinister, but it's got a spring in its step: I can hear the roots of Skream's uniquely biiiig tune take on Dubstep in this, but the syncopated beats and the killer sine-wave synth-sound/envelope action is part of a noble electronic lineage that stretches back to early Warp releases like The Forgemasters. I can see myself scouring eBay and the Tempa back-catalogue for more head-rotating shit like this.

"Sholay" is credited to High Plains Drifter Vs Goldspot , but is actually Horsepower and Benny Ill, I think. This is a lop-sided slo-roller, with slighty unbalanced, tabla-assisted beats, Asian-flava'd strings and ghostly Bollywood vocals...it's easy to forget that Horsepower often pepper'd their post-millennial productions w/ ethno-exotic travelogue samples that then (directly or otherwise) a year or three later inspired the likes of Skream/Benga's "The Judgement" and the haunting motifs that infected some of Digital Mystikz early dubs.

10 Comments:

At 10:59 pm, Blogger GTTRBRKZ said...

bah! beat me to it!!
btw, i got copyright on the 'dubstep is the new bleep 'n' bass' thing, so back-off, buster!
;-)

 
At 12:17 am, Blogger Blackdown said...

OK so i'm gonna be a pedant here please excuse me.

The comp stretches from 2000 - 2004.

"a lost Forward>> anthem from 2002, I think...originally released on Ghost, yeah?"

actually no, Ghost 4 had the other mix but this was the original Velvet Rooms anthem, which never came out.

"Star Wars (Hatcha VIP) by Benga"

We called this 'THE Hatcha VIP' because since Benga made it, only Hatcha had it. But to avoid confusion, it's made only by Benga.

It's clearly a response to Pulse X by Musical Mob, incidentally a pivotal tune in the interface between 2step and grime.

Re "Red" by Artwork. You can so clearly hear the blueprint for the early Benga and Skream in this anthem.

"High Plains Drifter Vs Goldspot , but is actually Horsepower and Benny Ill"

High Plains Drifter = Benny Ill from Horsepower

Goldspot = Dinesh from NYC

 
At 12:19 am, Blogger Blackdown said...

either way, bigup for the review. it's great to see people enthusing about these sounds again.

 
At 5:00 am, Anonymous Eric said...

I love dubstep and dark garage, and I'm a little sad that it isn't more popular than it is, but I must say that I'll be shocked to see a big come-back this early.. it's not due for another few years.

 
At 8:22 am, Blogger Loki said...

love the Ernst reference... that alone makes me want to seek out some of this stuff... it's one of the most sublime, subliminal pieces of dark art ever

 
At 8:29 am, Blogger kek-w said...

Hi Martin - thanks for visiting!

You're not being pedantic...I love this kinda minituae. I deliberately put 'I think' cos I was slightly unsure of me facts and this is a bit specialist to Google. I kinda hoped that someone a lot more knowledgeable than me would correct any goofs.

Yeah, the press release indicated that "Star Wars" was kinda like Hatcha's theme-tune at one point, so I guessed it was an exclusive dubplate as Benga/Skream were doing exclusives for Hatcha...did you do the Press Release or was that Laurie?

Yeah, "Red" was a real shock to my ears on vinyl...I'd heard it on an mp3 mix recently, but it was a real shock & pleasure to hear it thru my Wharfedales and a def. connection was made to Skream...

Thanks for humouring my child-like Old Bloke Enthusiasm...I'm really digging this stuff, and will start snooping round and excavating some more transitional tunes, soon as I've got the time...any tips would be appreciated.

Hats off to you, Martin, for helping make this stuff available and more visible again.

 
At 5:45 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!

 
At 6:35 am, Blogger csa said...

well spent words, Kek..mucho respect.

 
At 2:03 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

Thanks, Man.

Nice blog, btw.

Great to see how the d/step virus is spreading.

 
At 9:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

when's it dropping on CD?

 

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