What, exactly, is Dubstep?
January 21, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

What, exactly, is Dubstep? Electronic music artist Bassnectar explains. [via]
posted by saiwol (147 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to go ahead an propose a taxonomic system for all musical styles a la Linnaeus. So dubsteb would be Breakbeatus dubsteppii.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:38 AM on January 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


That's a helpful explanation and he comes off as very likeable.
posted by Evstar at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


Obligatory
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:40 AM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a helpful explanation and he comes off as very likeable.

And much more well versed in music theory than I would have expected.
posted by saiwol at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


le flavor du jour
posted by Ironmouth at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa...an FPP involving Bassnectar. Sweet. Thank you for this!
posted by jnnla at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's Lady Gaga riding My Little Pony.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


We had a good conversation about this recently.

Personally, I like this explanation, but I'm not sure how far it goes. There is disagreement about whether dubstep counts at all as a style rather than a genre. Everything he describes is common in dubstep; but is it what dubstep is?

Also, an American dude explaining dubstep. Are we next going to get a German explaining the style of Country & Western?
posted by koeselitz at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2012


No escape.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or maybe an Italian explaining the style of Western movies? What's it matter?
posted by Evstar at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Derp.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's Lady Gaga riding My Little Pony.

That's brilliant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2012


I'm not French but I can make a perfectly good mayonnaise.
posted by Evstar at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


And of course, the guide for everything else electronic music.
posted by disillusioned at 11:49 AM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


the next big thing: Derpstep.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Evstar: “Or maybe an Italian explaining the style of Western movies? What's it matter?”

I guess it's not so much Bassnectar's nation of origin or anything. It's more that – well, there are those who see dubstep as specifically a kind of UK folk music from the early 2000s. To give a description of the music without even mentioning these roots, or at least that it's an underground music with specific sociological sources, might possibly be seen as some as neglecting something essential about the music.

I don't know. The article from the last post on dubstep had a lot of good stuff in it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:57 AM on January 21, 2012


You know what? Awesome. Thanks for this. I love how articulate and detailed he is in his description. It crystalized a lot of stuff for me.
posted by nevercalm at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are we next going to get a German explaining the style of Country & Western?

There are *many* Germans who could do a better job of this than your average American.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Everything (not exaggerating) Lorin does works for me. I think of him as the breakbeat answer to Anton Newcombe.
posted by heyho at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found this quite informative.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2012



I guess it's not so much Bassnectar's nation of origin or anything. It's more that – well, there are those who see dubstep as specifically a kind of UK folk music from the early 2000s. To give a description of the music without even mentioning these roots, or at least that it's an underground music with specific sociological sources, might possibly be seen as some as neglecting something essential about the music.


That's totally fair. I knew about that half of it, but it helped to have the genre's mechanics pinned down a little more solidly.
posted by Evstar at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs more Skrillex and mid-range wobble.

Anyone know if this illustrated 3 minute version of the Bassnectar interview is online? It was fun, but MoBoogie pulled it from Youtube.
posted by Nelson at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2012


To give a description of the music without even mentioning these roots, or at least that it's an underground music with specific sociological sources, might possibly be seen as some as neglecting something essential about the music.

It might possibly be seen that way, but that does mean that it actually is, anymore than a description of blues guitar composition that talks about the use of the pentatonic and vocal repetition and 12-bar I/IV/V structres without specifically couching it in a primer on black oppression and early 20th C. American culture is any kind of indictment of the theoretical analysis. The blues is a complicated artifact of American culture, and anyone who denied that would be a nut, but it's also a body of music that can be discussed theoretically for it's actual musical parts.
posted by cortex at 12:04 PM on January 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Being unversed in electronic music, I watched this interview out of curiosity and came away from it thinking, "That was informative! And this Bassjuice person seems like such a nice young man."

And then I had a sudden urge to don a cardigan sweater and sit in a rocking chair sipping Ovaltine.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2012 [30 favorites]


He shares a very Coyne-ian vision of collaborative performance at the end, too. I love this man.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2012


And then I had a sudden urge to don a cardigan sweater and sit in a rocking chair sipping Ovaltine.

While listen to the Forgotten Rebels, of course.
posted by jonmc at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I happen to be listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer now. Honestly, they're just as ear-bleeding. The lyrics are so, so awful, they hurt. Everything. Must. Rhyme. And then the synth and distortion extended jam. I swear, Skrillex is the re-incarnation of ELP. Roll up. Roll up. See the show.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?
posted by saucygit at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe someone can explain this for me; I asked this in the last dubstep thread, but no one answered.

Leaving aside questions of quality (personally, I find his stuff amusing, but slight), why is Skrillex considered dubstep even though his beats are pretty much four-on-the-floor techno/house grooves? Is it just because he dirties up the midrange?
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2012


How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?

Two, actually: one for the "Boom-CH-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-BOOM" and one for the "WUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUB."

(A third button for a reggae vocal sample is optional.)
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Infinitywaltz: In my limited and rather impartial understanding of the situation, you've described exactly why most dubstep fans hate Skrillex: he just puts a drop in boring techno. And the WUBWUB and whatnot.
posted by SomaSoda at 12:21 PM on January 21, 2012


Two, actually

You forgot the button for the doooooooooooooooooooooooo.
posted by stelas at 12:22 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?

Here you go.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:22 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


saucygit: "How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?"

You use the Pro version of this program.
posted by vanar sena at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


That was interesting. I wish he would have differentiated the difference between dubstep and grime in more detail. Although it's not my thing or my generation, I enjoyed Lady Sovereign's Vertically Challenged which I'm told is grime.

Is dubstep like grime? How are they different?

I feel so old, get off my lawn, etc.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?

Yeah, and don't get me started on guitar! All those people are doing is raking a plastic plectrum across some wound nickel strings, for crying out loud!
posted by metaman livingblog at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


Internet bumper sticker I saw recently:

I wub wub wub dubstep.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Are we next going to get a German explaining the style of Country & Western?

That sounds fun, and I'm sure you could find some who do a great job.
posted by Edgewise at 12:32 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kramer listens to Skrillex.

And for no apparent reason, Cooking with Skrillex.
posted by knave at 12:34 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dubstep is what I start hearing in my brain about three hours after eating cubenzis.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:36 PM on January 21, 2012


This Skrillex guy looks kind of like Al Jourgenson's anemic kid brother.
posted by jonmc at 12:40 PM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


cortex: “It might possibly be seen that way, but that does mean that it actually is, anymore than a description of blues guitar composition that talks about the use of the pentatonic and vocal repetition and 12-bar I/IV/V structres without specifically couching it in a primer on black oppression and early 20th C. American culture is any kind of indictment of the theoretical analysis. The blues is a complicated artifact of American culture, and anyone who denied that would be a nut, but it's also a body of music that can be discussed theoretically for it's actual musical parts.”

This is absolutely true; and I guess I'm speaking out of the same attendant anxieties about authenticity when I say that, anxieties which the better part of my nature knows it should usually call out. But this is the question now, a question a lot of people are asking. In the last post, Skrillex was explicitly pointed up as an example of an artist who does not make dubstep, or at least who does not make authentic dubstep, or something like that; but it's hard to see on what grounds.

It's also worth saying that the last article we looked at regarding dubstep had a pretty different definition of what dubstep is; there, the definition was somewhat fuzzy, having to do with particular attitudes toward bass and space, with the explicit claim made that there is very little otherwise that distinguishes dubstep from other musics. So there's still a technical question about whether this definition or another definition is correct. Plenty of what liquido would call "dubstep" is clearly not in Bassnectar's definition of the category. And liquido says some specific things about what dubstep is technically that Bassnectar doesn't seem to see as essential to the style.

Also, I don't know anything about Bassnectar, but I wonder if he'd change his description of dubstep, since this was five years ago. It seems like a lot has happened in the past five years.
posted by koeselitz at 12:51 PM on January 21, 2012


You know something's wrong when the genre parodies are 1000 times better than the source. Behold fartstep.
posted by NeonSurge at 12:52 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw Bassnectar in concert last year. Unlike Lauryn Hill whom I also saw last year, he was very punctual. I barely made it through the bathroom queue between his opening act and his appearance. Pretty fun show. And this song is definitely a jam.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm probably coming at an odd trajectory when I say all this; when I mention that dubstep is folk music to me, it's because this is my favorite dubstepper, although liquido says that's not even dubstep and that it just came out at the same time.
posted by koeselitz at 12:54 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


NeonSurge: “You know something's wrong when the genre parodies are 1000 times better than the source...”

If you think that silliness is better than Burial, you're absolutely insane.
posted by koeselitz at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bassnectar doesn't really know what he's talking about, and he's not really a dubstep artist.
posted by empath at 1:00 PM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ah, empath's here. Now things will probably get good.
posted by koeselitz at 1:02 PM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


If all dubstep sounded like Burial I'd probably like it a lot more. But it doesn't - and partially because the guy behind Burial seems to have taken a completely different and far more low-tech approach to producing it (hand-placing beats in Audacity without a grid, for example) than the by-the-numbers stuff I hear most often.
posted by vanar sena at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, vanar sena, there are other people making dubstep that often sound like Burial. Shackleton, for instance.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 PM on January 21, 2012


Ah, empath the Trance bore's here. Now things will probably get good.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 1:12 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


What, exactly, is Dubstep?

Simple, it's what they put in as background music for Transformer pr0n.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:12 PM on January 21, 2012


Another answer to the "how does one perform dub step" question
posted by flaterik at 1:12 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


also, will someone do a post on nu-disco? because it's huge right now. I am familiar with some of the artists and labels but something tells me filthy light thief knows everything about it
posted by flaterik at 1:15 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, dubstep is half-speed breaks, but it's more complicated than that. And it's a 'spawn of garage', not 'spawn of hip-hop'. But, anyway, bassnectar came to it via west coast hip-hop instead of London, which is where Dubstep really came from.

(Not saying bassnectar is bad, I like his remixes, he's just not really dubstep)
posted by empath at 1:16 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


man, and I thought metal and punk people were crazy with the genre hairplitting.
posted by jonmc at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Is it really genre hairsplitting to say that a kind of music that came from South London isn't a "spawn of hiphop?"
posted by koeselitz at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


to quote a wise man 'it's of minor fucking importance.'
posted by jonmc at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Thanks! I'm relatively out of the breaks scene these days, and I must admit, dubstep kind of frightens me- does that mean I'm getting old? I like this guy. He put it in a context I can understand, and I kind of want to like it now.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:29 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


jonmc: "man, and I thought metal and punk people were crazy with the genre hairplitting."

And in that context, "hair" is a surprisingly apt differentiator too. Q: Metal kid or hardcore kid? A: Measure hair. The genres themselves are coalescing quickly, so being able to tell visually is sometimes useful. Case in point: Hatebreed gig with Cannibal Corpse supporting (!!) - you could tell who had come for which band really easily.
posted by vanar sena at 1:29 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


jonmc, if someone told you that Punk Rock was kind of like fast Country Western would it bother you?
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember reading about dubstep in the Wire right when grime was getting "big" (as in, underground-style big). "Yeah this has potential but it's still grime's low-rent cousin." Things have totally changed. Every time a (much younger) friend starts talking about dubstep and Skrillex and Bassnectar I make them listen to old Kode9, or Benga's first album or something.

Koselitz, I'm glad someone else around here likes Shackleton.
posted by hototogisu at 1:31 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not tremendously. Dude, all I'm saying is that you guys sound just like the raging debates in the letters section of Kerrang back when I was a teenager about whether or not some band was True Metal.
posted by jonmc at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was super-informative, and his explanation was unexpectedly layman-friendly. Thanks for the link!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2012


also, will someone do a post on nu-disco?

Seconded.
posted by empath at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, you're totally right about music being beyond category, jonmc. But it's hard not to talk about authenticity when you talk about music. How would you suggest we avoid this trap?
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2012


The closest analogue to dubstep genre-bastardization — and the resultant "what is the real stuff?" conversation — I can think of is emo.

I bet dubstep's prominence fades as it gets dated, but its influence lives on. I also guarantee the influence that spreads the most will be the popular, "not real dubstep" stuff. It seems that's how things go.

Someone really needs to make a site called fivefa and document the scene's trajectory.
posted by defenestration at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2012


But it's hard not to talk about authenticity when you talk about music.

Not really. I care more about how something sounds than it's pedigree.
posted by jonmc at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But that's the problem. What Bassnectar describes in the main link is not really how dubstep sounds.
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 PM on January 21, 2012


I mean, to take cortex's example from above, which was a good one – if somebody said to you, "the Blues is a music invented in Alaska by Inuit; it involves playing an accordion at very high speeds" – would you say they should be corrected? Or would you say, "eh, it's whatever you want to call it." Isn't "the Blues" a useful category? Doesn't it denote a very real thing? And if so, isn't it possible that "dubstep" actually refers to a certain sociological condition and the style it produced, rather than just an arbitrary battle over genre in Kerrrang?
posted by koeselitz at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


koselitz: the blues is a useful category mainly since it's broad and fairly simple to explain. The better analogy here would be to say "Is this band Thrash, Speed, Death, Black, Technical or Power Metal?" See?
posted by jonmc at 1:44 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked this, but Andy Carroll really needs to get back to training and stop cutting beats if he wants to score again sometime this decade.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2012


I love electronic music and I love discussions about electronic music more because, like clockwork, it always turns into a discussion about how genre x is not TRUE genre x. There is this weird need to have the insider knowledge about where genre x came from and it all just gets so goddamned negative.

I don't know anything, but what I do know is that this dubstep sound....wobble bass...whatever....has stolen the spotlight from other types of electronic music that I used to enjoy. Bassnectar used to make really amazing breakbeat (love Mesmerizing the Ultra album) and is now kind of all dubsteppy. Dubstep seems kind of like trance was in the late 90s...its everywhere now.
posted by jnnla at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2012


Perhaps it's irrational to still be annoyed by this but Bassnectar used to come to a record store I worked at and try and rearrange the CDs so his albums would be in the "featured" section. He just grabbed randoms titles off the top, dumped them somewhere, and moved his into the same place.

I've had a dislike of the guy ever since.

And then he "remixed" the Pixies...
posted by Sandor Clegane at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, yes, hmm, I see.
posted by codacorolla at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


beanplating the dubplate
posted by fleetmouse at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2012


jonmc: ""Is this band Thrash, Speed, Death, Black, Technical or Power Metal?""

I'd like to point out that there exists symphonic blackened brutal tech death metal.

At least for metal these terms have lost any real value in terms of ontology or provenance, and are simply tags to give us an idea of what it will sound like before we've heard it. I've always assumed (probably incorrectly, it seems) that this is the role of most of these sub-sub-genres for electronic music too, particularly for DJs who need to know things like BPM and beat placement at a glance.
posted by vanar sena at 2:01 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


jonmc, if someone told you that Punk Rock was kind of like fast Country Western would it bother you?

I thought the Blasters proved that definitively 32 years ago, and if not, then I'm happy to provide my own proof.
posted by dw at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Que es mas macho?
posted by dbiedny at 2:12 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


if someone told you that Punk Rock was kind of like fast Country Western would it bother you?

No, but it would bother me if someone told me that Country & Western could come from Memphis, and that the other people who play the same exact music but aren't from Memphis aren't actually playing Country & Western.

Also: I don't even effing like Country & Western
posted by Blue_Villain at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I also think the idea that south london wasn't influenced by hip hop is a bit... off.
posted by flaterik at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


jonmc: “the blues is a useful category mainly since it's broad and fairly simple to explain.”

Really? "Fairly simple?" How would you explain the blues in one "fairly simple" sentence?

flaterik: “I also think the idea that south london wasn't influenced by hip hop is a bit... off.”

That's fair.
posted by koeselitz at 2:16 PM on January 21, 2012


I've always assumed (probably incorrectly, it seems) that this is the role of most of these sub-sub-genres for electronic music too, particularly for DJs who need to know things like BPM and beat placement at a glance.

That's how I and most of the other DJs I know treat them. But I'm pretty descriptivist about language, too.
posted by flaterik at 2:20 PM on January 21, 2012


1. Bassnectar sounds like a really nice guy.

2. That he never mentioned the differences between UK and American dubstep is troubling and displays a level of ignorance (willful or not) that seems to be widespread amongst American audiences.
posted by secondhand pho at 2:27 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've always assumed (probably incorrectly, it seems) that this is the role of most of these sub-sub-genres for electronic music too, particularly for DJs who need to know things like BPM and beat placement at a glance.

Yep, that's exactly right. It's about bpm, beat structure, and other things like instrumentation, etc. Trance can run from 128bpm to 135, and so can a lot of other genres that have four to the floor beats, but you'd rarely mix trance with anything else.

The thing that makes dubstep so slippery is that it can be read as being two speeds (140 and 70bpm), and happens to mix well with almost every other genre of dance music, from D&B to hip-hop, so it's been influenced by all of them and has influenced all the others. Also, a lot of people recently were introduced to EDM through dubstep first and some things that they take as being signifiers of dubstep such as wobbly basslines aren't exclusive to dubstep and don't signify dubstep on their own.
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I care more about how something sounds than it's pedigree.

This sounds snobbish ("I'm above labels!" fans self).

I care about both. With the avalanche of creative output in today's world, I need "pedigree" to help me wade through it all and match my tastes with my listening habits. My tastes happen to align more with UK Dubstep than its (completely legitimate) American spinoff. Labels help me out filter out the American version.

Some critics out there claim that, at some point, these spinoff genres become misrepresentations of the label. I agree that's a real problem, which further labels help to solve.
posted by stroke_count at 2:41 PM on January 21, 2012


Really?

"Doesn't matter what sub-sub-genre music is in, I just try to find things I like." is "snobbish"?

How about "Bassnectar doesn't really know what he's talking about, and he's not really a dubstep artist."
posted by saiwol at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


This Skrillex guy looks kind of like Al Jourgenson's anemic kid brother.
I know I said this in another thread, but I think he looks way more like Darlene from Roseanne.

No seriously guys what if Sara Gilbert is pulling a Joaquin Phoenix on us wouldn't that be incredible
posted by pxe2000 at 3:05 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where's the drop?
posted by d1rge at 3:15 PM on January 21, 2012


This Skrillex guy looks kind of like Al Jourgenson's anemic kid brother.

I know I said this in another thread, but I think he looks way more like Darlene from Roseanne.


See you and raise you Corey Feldman
posted by juv3nal at 3:18 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I forget where I read it, but I found this description of a dubstep bass drop pretty funny...

The drums beat a little faster, a little faster, a little faster, then stop. Someones says something and then Optimus Prime takes a shit.

not dubstep-ist
posted by orme at 4:35 PM on January 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


It's Lady Gaga riding My Little Pony.

Appropriate, since I was introduced to Dubstep by way of Dubtrot.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:45 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone here who says these kids need to get haircuts and jobs. Also, where's my social security check.
posted by DU at 4:46 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not that I'm really down on dubsteb, per se. It's more of a wub-hate relationship.
posted by phooky at 5:14 PM on January 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


Everything he describes is common in dubstep; but is it what dubstep is?

How else would you define what dubstep is but to explain what is common in it? What else is a genre but the set of characteristics which identify its members, and those which distinguish it from its neighbors?

20 minutes later

I wonder if there are a couple of completely different perspectives at play here. As a musician, Lorin's explanation of dubstep makes total sense. He's explaining what you need to know to play something that people will hear and recognize as dubstep. BPM, type of rhythm, etc., all this is fundamental to playing music in the dubstep pattern.

But it seems to me that some of you are looking at this from a sociological perspective: to you, "dubstep" doesn't just mean the music, but the group of people who are having some kind of common experience around the music. Explaining what dubstep is necessarily has to do with the history of that group of people.

Does that at all sound reasonable? I can't relate to the latter perspective at all, so I am really just guessing here.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:26 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't take dance music out of the context of the clubs that dance music is played in and make any kind of sense of it. That's the perspective that you can't relate to, I guess. Dubstep is what dubstep djs play at dubstep clubs. That's it.
posted by empath at 6:28 PM on January 21, 2012


You're right, I can't relate to that at all. In fact I can't see how that makes any sense. Trance music does not stop being trance music just because I'm playing it at home instead of listening to it at a club. Psytrance doesn't stop being psytrance just because I'm listening to it at work, sober, through headphones rather than tripping on acid out in a forest somewhere. I don't see how you can argue that dubstep has no distinguishing features other than being played by people who call themselves "dubstep DJs" at venues which call themselves "dubstep clubs" - that definition just disappears up its own asshole in a puff of uselessness.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:33 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that dance music is necessarily "club music" is a particularly narrow view, empath. It's definitely not the way the west coast sees things.
posted by flaterik at 6:33 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


...otherwise, I could call myself a dubstep DJ, bribe my way in to a dubstep night at a dubstep club, and play "Sandstorm", thereby turning it into a dubstep track. Which is nonsensical, but would be hilarious.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:37 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mars, I would pay cash money to see that.
posted by flaterik at 6:40 PM on January 21, 2012


How does one perform dubstep? Do they press a button?

Here you go.


So, uh, from watching that video, as far as I could tell, it's

Step 1: Assemble dirty, dirty hippies in the woods in Canada

Step 2: Hand out glow sticks and black lights.

Step 3: Conga line?

Thanks for clearing that up for me.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


...otherwise, I could call myself a dubstep DJ, bribe my way in to a dubstep night at a dubstep club, and play "Sandstorm", thereby turning it into a dubstep track. Which is nonsensical, but would be hilarious.

make it "Tequila" and it'd be perfect.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you understand the weight behind sandstorm, jon. There is none more perfect.
posted by flaterik at 6:49 PM on January 21, 2012


How would you explain the blues in one "fairly simple" sentence?

"The blues is life."
-Brownie McGhee
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:51 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


you would question the wisdom of Pee Wee Herman, flaterik?
posted by jonmc at 6:52 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is one hell of a hell of conundrum I find myself in.
posted by flaterik at 6:54 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Going to have to side with empath and say that Bassnectar doesn't really know what he's talking about. Then again, like koeselitz, I ran into dubstep through Burial in 2007 and hate most dubstep (despite having hosted a dubstep radio show for a year, who would have thought?).
posted by azarbayejani at 6:57 PM on January 21, 2012


The idea that dance music is necessarily "club music" is a particularly narrow view, empath.

Well, I include raves and warehouse parties there, too. But it's not music to listen to at home on the couch.
posted by empath at 8:13 PM on January 21, 2012


...otherwise, I could call myself a dubstep DJ, bribe my way in to a dubstep night at a dubstep club, and play "Sandstorm", thereby turning it into a dubstep track. Which is nonsensical, but would be hilarious.

And you'd clear the dance floor. Unless you played this, I guess.

I've got kind of a holistic view of dance music where it's a 'system' that includes promoters, djs, producers and dancers as the artists. And you can't really extract one part of it and say 'this is dubstep'. Dubstep is a scene. Just like jungle was a scene and rave was a scene and punk was a scene.
posted by empath at 8:17 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burial is dubstep? Huh.

I had no idea. I thought Burial was just this, I dunno, atmospheric electronic stuff that I listened to as kind of white noise while working because it's sorta soothing and I'm tired of constantly listening to doom/drone. Whaddya know?

HEY GUYS I THINK I LIKE DUBSTEP
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:45 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But it's not music to listen to at home on the couch.

Way wrong there, empath. I'm happy to listen to dance music in a very wide variety of places, including in my shop, in the car, at work, etc. Not quite on the couch, but pretty close to everywhere else. I love the energy and beats.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:52 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still just trying to figure out the difference between house and trance. Dubstep sounds the same as those two. Hello, middle age.
posted by zardoz at 8:59 PM on January 21, 2012


But it's not music to listen to at home on the couch.

Given how many of my coworkers listen to dubstep/grime/two-step/garage/trance/jungle/techno/Hi-NRG while coding, it's clear that a whole bunch of artists need to be informed they're no longer classified as dance music.

I already have e-mailed Mission of Burma, Superchunk, and M83 to inform them that they are now coding music as well due to my recent listening habits at work. Anthony Gonzalez was not happy.
posted by dw at 9:12 PM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think we’re going to need a separate board for Dubstep discussions pretty soon.

I’m not at all current with any music, much less club music, so my confusion could come from the fact that I was just mistaken about what Dubstep is. I first heard of it 5-6 years ago and the albums I have are things like Burial, Distance, Kode 9, maybe even Boxcutter. Again, since I don’t go to clubs, maybe I just assumed this was what Dubstep was.

"Instead of quantizing it on the beat, you can change the swing"? Or, humor me for a minute, you could move the beats to where they sound good. I’m not sure that some of the younger guys even know that’s an option. I know, DJ’s, blah blah, but feel is minute.

Bassnectar does seem like a nice guy, I’ll have to check it out. I hope it doesn’t suck.
posted by bongo_x at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2012


I'm still just trying to figure out the difference between house and trance.

It's surprisingly difficult.

This is trance.

It's about 135 bpm, has a hard, 4 to the floor beat, and arpegiated, melodic synths, and hard acid sounds.

This is House.

Slower than trance, still has a 4 to the floor beat, the more samples, less complex synth patterns.

This is techno., characterized by being around 128 bpm, minimal instrumentation and simple, repetitive melodies.

But then again:

This is also considered trance by some people, and it lacks almost all the attributes of the first song that distinguish it from techno, only because it's played by trance DJs, it's released on a trance record label, and it's made by a trance producer.

Like I said, a lot of the differences in genres are cultural rather than musical, which doesn't make them any less important.
posted by empath at 10:19 PM on January 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Given how many of my coworkers listen to dubstep/grime/two-step/garage/trance/jungle/techno/Hi-NRG while coding, it's clear that a whole bunch of artists need to be informed they're no longer classified as dance music.

I listen to dance music all day long at work, but I'm not kidding myself that I'm getting a full appreciation of the songs. I have to use my imagination to figure out what they're supposed to sound like.
posted by empath at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2012


Trance, Techno & House all at the same time.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:22 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for genres and their popularity I always wondered if you could match the rise and fall of genres with the availability, quality and popularity of the drugs being taken in the scene.

Different drugs chase a different vibe that could account for a lot of musical differences. To my ear distinctive drug influenced tracks stand out clearly the same way a christian rock track does. The music has idiosyncrasies.
posted by vicx at 10:52 PM on January 21, 2012


No true dubstep.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:25 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


But it's hard not to talk about authenticity when you talk about music.

Only if you're the kind of Nimrod who thinks nothing is good if the wrong sort of people like it.
posted by rodgerd at 2:06 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Personally I find genre descriptions almost useless these days. House, Techno, and to a lesser extent, Dubstep are all so horribly broad and overlapping, that it's impossible to use the terms in a meaningful manner. They can easily mean wildly different things to different people of different ages in different cities. (e.g. Shackleton & Skrillex, Moodyman & DeadMau5)

Bassnectars descriptions are comforting in that they give you what appears to be a handle on things, but the reality is that pretty much every genre he mentions has examples for several of his classifications.

It is fun to make up these simple boxes, but don't be misled.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:55 AM on January 22, 2012


I think that I'm doomed to not understand it. I keep listening tracks that people post here and while I'm listening my mind keeps thinking "nice intro but when is the guitar going to kick in and the actual song going to start?" And it never does.
posted by octothorpe at 7:17 AM on January 22, 2012


One could Listen To Dubstep: acquire Dubstep Allstars Volumes 1 thru ... and also Rephlex Record's (remember, people thought Burial was Richard D James in one of his many guises) Grime 1 and 2 (yes, Grime is different than dubstep, but this is from the beginning, before the genre was really spelled out), and also find Mary Anne Hobbs "Dubstep Warz" from 2006. Listen to those recordings.

It's a fairly young genre, and it came from a pretty specific place (literal-geographically and musically). One can clearly see what dubstep was during those early years; it had a very specific sound. It has obviously evolved, developed, changed, been bastardized, etc, to the point where it is very easy to argue about what is and what isn't, although in my opinion some of the stuff being labeled dubstep nowadays is closer to the original sound, however evolved, and some of it has just had the label attached for whatever reasons legitimate and not.

But anyway, travel back in time for a clear picture of what the genre/style is. The present is more confusing.
posted by J0 at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What J0 said.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


bongo_x: "'Instead of quantizing it on the beat, you can change the swing'? Or, humor me for a minute, you could move the beats to where they sound good."

What annoyed me about that bit is that it has nothing to do with dubstep or techno or breakbeat or anything else. It's just a description of the buttons in whatever DAW he's using. And, also, the fact that he is apparently using the automated "swing" option on his sequencer seems insanely amateurish as far as beat production goes, but then I guess I'm not a professional.
posted by koeselitz at 9:52 AM on January 22, 2012


How do you guys (who don't live in London, and can't get to their clubs) keep up with new stuff?
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 10:00 AM on January 22, 2012


And, also, the fact that he is apparently using the automated "swing" option on his sequencer seems insanely amateurish as far as beat production goes, but then I guess I'm not a professional.

They swing options are a lot more sophisticated than they used to be, and a lot of producers use the swing button.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can somebody please explain (or share somebody else's probably contentious explanation) of the difference between US and UK dubstep?
posted by iamkimiam at 1:05 PM on January 22, 2012


iamkimiam: I'm new to dubstep, and trying to get up to speed, and that was my main question too. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 1:57 PM on January 22, 2012


Well, I include raves and warehouse parties there, too.

Fair enough, though this coast would remind you not to forget the desert and forest :)

I simultaneously entirely get where you're coming from and am confused by your conclusions, so I'm not sure this is a conversation that works for me in text.

Also, while it's true that "music sounds better with you" is house music, it hurts my soul a little bit to have that be presented as "being house". Actually, that's a pretty good example of how trance is pretty much just progressive house that chose melody over funk, and is somewhere in the middle ground. But I don't think there are any sharp definitions of genre; my descriptions of music tend to involve the direction in which they bounce, so it's definitely full of subjectivity.
posted by flaterik at 4:09 PM on January 22, 2012


jnnla: "I love electronic music and I love discussions about electronic music more because, like clockwork, it always turns into a discussion about how genre x is not TRUE genre x."

I'll kind of agree with you. But here, let's put it like this. I used to listen to the "dubstep" channel on last.fm. "Like clockwork" I knew that if I heard a certain sound that I hated, I would end up opening the client and be like "the fuck is this skrillex shit?" and promptly press the "next" song. Then I just hit that "ignore artist" button.

Yes, there's similarities and a(n) (d)evolution, so in a sense the modern wubwub is *true* dubstep because it evolved, but, really - can we find a subgenre for this kind? I like the name "brostep" because it conveys what I think of people who like Skrillex, but I'm a reasonable person - give me a better name. Hell - I'll take "wubstep". Some of the stuff I like does tend towards wubstep (Widdlers's Froggystyle (Zeno's Poison Dart Frog Mix); Mimosa's remix of Collie Budd's "Come Around"; PANTyRAID's - I worship the sun) -- these are all sorta like the halfway point between old school dubstep (burial, kode9, shackleton, etc...) Burial was the first I heard of "dubstep" and I wasn't a fan of it (nor am I still), I think something in between the minimalist dubscapes of burial and the outright atrocities of skrillex are where my heart lay.

It's a bit like "IDM" -- wtf is IDM? When something like Boards of Canada can be called IDM and then something like Autechre's Confield can also be considered in the same genre, clearly, there's a need for "hairsplitting" and honestly we *aren't* hairsplitting enough in the dubstep genre, IMO.

If we can have neurofunk, darkstep, techstep, darkcore, and more in the "drum and bass" category, surely we can have more than one genre in "dubstep"???
posted by symbioid at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The difference between uk and us dub step is largely cultural, like I said. Aside from a short boomlet in 2000 or so, 2step garage barely made a dent in the us, which was the scene that birthed dub step. So once the records started making their way over the ocean, there was no ready made scene available to integrate the new sound.

The last dubstep thread mentioned the Trouble and Bass parties in new york. The guy that ran those, ac slater, was a happy hardcore dj that had switched to a newish subgenre called fidget house that was all about wobbly baselines and fidget-y percussion, but from a different origin (techno and electro house).

And instead of the somewhat sophisticated urban scene in London, the first djs that really picked it up were touring the remnants of the rave scene on the east coast.

At east coast parties, because the individual scenes were rarely big enough to support a single genre, you'd have two or three rooms going with five or 6 djs playing two hour sets, each playing a different genre.

So, what happened was, djs would play a set of 80% drum and bass, for example, and maybe 20 minutes of dubstep, because that was all they had, and there was always a chance it would clear the room (I cleared several with it, before it started catching on)

Eventually, you had a combination of American djs from every other genre starting to make dubstep records, dance floors figuring out how to dance to it and uk djs getting booked in the us for the first time seeing how dubstep worked in the 'rave' context. So dubstep started taking on attribute from other genres, like the D&b obsession with the drop, and the fidget/electro grindy midrange bass, etc.

By the time it got over to the west coast, it was completely divorced from its original context, to the point where pop trance djs like deadmau5 and headbangers like skrillex could make dubstep without any reference at all to the songs and producers that created the genre.

Uk dubstep on the other hand, tends to keep it closer to where it came from.
posted by empath at 5:45 PM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


genres exist so people who don't make music have something to talk about.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:46 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was plenty of dub step on the west coast before the electro sounds started to take over; I loved that stuff. I don't know who was PRODUCING it, because I was just dancing to it, but at least in my memory it still had funk and fun and dub.

And wasn't 74% ring modulation.
posted by flaterik at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2012


can't stand todays dubstep.

early DMZ & JuJu 12"s is dubstep to me...

this video is awesome btw
posted by 12bits at 7:52 PM on January 22, 2012


What do people listen to dubstep on? Does everyone have a good sub-woofer or is it headphones only?
I did wonder what dubstep was when everyone was loving Burial and I couldn't hear any dubstep in it. So this was reassuring:
Besides space and bass, there weren't many similarities between the different producers' sounds.

Kode 9 sounded nothing like Skream, who had a distinctly different sound than Vex'd. And there was Burial, who wasn't really dubstep, but just happened to release on Hyperdub around that time.

The fact that Burial was even pegged dubstep is just a testament the feeling back then that dubstep could be anything, that producers could do whatever they wanted, as long as it had that mysterious deep vibe.
posted by asok at 4:50 AM on January 23, 2012



HEY GUYS I THINK I LIKE DUBSTEP
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:45 PM on January 21 [2 favorites +] [!]


I was all set to hate dubstep, but it's really not that bad. Maybe I'm not as old and pissy as I thought.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:57 AM on January 23, 2012


Breakcore is better.
posted by symbioid at 8:04 AM on January 23, 2012


I guess it's not so much Bassnectar's nation of origin or anything. It's more that – well, there are those who see dubstep as specifically a kind of UK folk music from the early 2000s. To give a description of the music without even mentioning these roots, or at least that it's an underground music with specific sociological sources, might possibly be seen as some as neglecting something essential about the music.

I guess that could still have been possible in the early 2000's, but anymore it seems increasingly implausible that any kind of musical trend could be confined geographically that way.
posted by straight at 8:48 AM on January 23, 2012


Sure you can. Even today, most new genres are birthed in a very small community. You need isolation for rapid development. Globally genres get formulaic very quickly.

Other locally based genres that have gone global in the past few years (off the top of my head):

Baltimore club, Chicago Footwork, New Orleans Bounce, Rio Funk (Baile Funk), Portuguese/Angolan Kuduro, Moombahton from Washington, DC.

Now, the lead time from local fad to global phenomenon is shorter than it's over been, but that doesn't mean that ignoring its local roots is a good thing. You still need to know where they came from.
posted by empath at 8:57 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm skeptical that that lead time can exist at all anymore. I'd expect all of those movements had some reception and feedback from listeners and other musicians from the outside world on their way to becoming a genre, which make attempts to make draw circles of authenticity on a strictly geographical basis kind of silly.
posted by straight at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2012


I'm not big on authenticity, but if you're going to understand a genre, you need to understand the milieu where it was created, and the purpose that it was created for. Would it make sense to talk about show tunes without mentioning Broadway or musical theater? You could talk about what show tunes have in common in a strictly musical theory sense, but wouldn't that be rather spectacularly be missing the point?
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on January 23, 2012


I'd expect all of those movements had some reception and feedback from listeners and other musicians from the outside world on their way to becoming a genre

Also, new genres tend to happen practically overnight, with just a few djs and producers doing most of the work before anybody even notices what happened. I'm skeptical that anybody can really participate in the creative scenius that invents genres without actually being in the same clubs together. Moombahton is the most recent dance music micro-genre I'm familiar with, and it was created fully-formed basically at a single house party by one guy, basically by accident. By the time the rest of the world got involved there were already 2 or 3 djs that had been playing it at a few clubs for half a year.
posted by empath at 10:55 AM on January 23, 2012


You could talk about what show tunes have in common in a strictly musical theory sense, but wouldn't that be rather spectacularly be missing the point?

Depends entirely on what the point is. If the point is "what is the cultural history and context of this form", yeah, it'd be missing the point. If the point is "what are the common distinguishing musical features of this form, what is its phenotype", then insisting on a discussion of cultural history and context is itself the off-point response.

And people have conversations from both perspectives as well as plenty that blend the two. I don't think that "what is dubsteb" is unambiguously a question tied to either point; treating it as "where did it come from" is no more or less valid than treating it as "what musical form does it take".

Would it make sense to talk about show tunes without mentioning Broadway or musical theater?

That depends entirely on why you're talking about show tunes.
posted by cortex at 10:58 AM on January 23, 2012


empath, I acknowledge that you have a reasonable point of view, but it's so different from mine that I can barely understand what you're getting out of the music. This comment gets at the core of the difference:

You could talk about what show tunes have in common in a strictly musical theory sense, but wouldn't that be rather spectacularly be missing the point?

To my mind, that very much IS the point: that is what is interesting and relevant, and that's precisely what made Bassnectar's explanation of dubstep in the linked video worthwhile. All the sociological stuff that seems to be so important to you barely registers to me - it's just history, background, fodder for arguments among whoever those people are who write about music. I don't care who invented it or where or why; I care what it is, how it works, what makes it unique, how it relates to other types of music.

I guess that's because I don't really participate in a genre-focused scene like you apparently do. My scene incorporates music but is built around art and community, in the form of persistent social connections; music is an element but not the center. Different musics come and go and we listen to them and play them and different people like different musics to different degrees, but the social environment is largely independent of the precise musical strains that happen to be in vogue at the moment.

So I've been hearing a lot of dubstep lately, it's just everywhere, which means that people I know, or vaguely know, or who know people I know are now playing dubstep where formerly they were playing something else. It's not like I'm suddenly in contact with a whole new group of dubstep-people, it's that the people are now in contact with dubstep-music. If I want to know what this dubstep thing is all about, knowing that it came from such-and-such DJ in such-and-such club in East Barkington tells me precisely nothing. I don't know any of those people anyway and never will.

Knowing that dubstep has such-and-such basic rhythm pattern, such-and-such range of tempos, is musically related to this and that style I might already know about, fits into the overall spectrum of electronic music like so, incorporates these additional elements, etc - that tells me a lot about what's going on when I hear dubstep. It helps me listen to it in a deeper way, because it helps me see what the musician has taken as a given and what they've added of their own. Maybe I can start noticing when someone is messing with expectations, doing something surprising, integrating unexpected elements from another source. Without a basic understanding of the form, though, it all just hits my ears like a lot of low-tempo bass wankery you can't dance to.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:52 AM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


empath, I acknowledge that you have a reasonable point of view, but it's so different from mine that I can barely understand what you're getting out of the music.

I tend to take a fairly funk-tional view of dance music (to use Simon Reynolds terms), especially since I had the background in DJing. To me (and most producers and djs), dance music is about making people dance and getting reactions from a dance floor, and what makes people dance in any particular environment is as much cultural as it is anything else. If people happen to enjoy listening to it in other environments, that's accidental.

I don't care who invented it or where or why; I care what it is, how it works, what makes it unique, how it relates to other types of music.

How dance music works is about a lot more than the structure of the music. I'm not really sure how to put this exactly, because it's hard to understand unless you go clubbing a lot and really get in depth with the records and mixing and producing and going to a lot of different clubs in different places, but there are a lot of very subtle differences between genres that are based on common cultural reference points more than they are on strictly musical content. Just as a kind of simple example, house music reads as more 'urban, soulful, black and gay' and trance reads as more 'european, euphoric and psychedelic', and that's more to do with the environment that the music came out of and less about the differences in music, but it carries over into the kinds of lyrics and melodies the songs will have, etc..

Based on Bassnectar's definition, it would be really hard to separate dubstep from a lot of sub-genres of hip-hop, for example. You could get into minute technical differences maybe, but they won't give you a real understanding of the genres, especially as they develop, because the real difference is a cultural one. I don't think that focusing strictly on stuff like BPM and structure gives you a complete understanding of what any genre is about. At best, it gives you a snapshot of where it happens to be today and 6 months from now, it might be completely useless.
posted by empath at 12:16 PM on January 23, 2012


At best, it gives you a snapshot of where it happens to be today

Empath, it sounds like you're answering the question "what is Dubstep" while Mars Saxman is asking the question, "What is this sound I'm hearing right now? Why are my friends listening to it and what do they hear that I don't hear?"

I'm sure to you, dubstep played as background at a party where no one is dancing or as soundtrack to a Youtube video is completely missing the point of dubstep, but if those sounds in that context are not really "Dubstep" anymore, they're still a thing that exists and is newish that some people are trying to figure out.
posted by straight at 7:53 PM on January 23, 2012


« Older Young Russian Violinists' Impromptu Jam With Dave ...  |  Speaking of Dub (the real kind... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments