Bristol’s well deserved reputation for musical innovation has been passed on to the Dubstep scene and its vast array of talented artists, who are providing the blueprint for a new Bristolian musical movement.
Bristol has often acted as reactionary force when a new scene evolves and, when this is then adopted by this city’s music community, the results can be staggering. Just as with Drum N Bass and before, a new wave of artists is making its mark with their own distinctive take on Dubstep.
Dubstep is undoubtedly one of the most talked about forms of underground music of the past couple of years. It has moved from small, sweaty underground clubs with a small platoon of loyal fans, to massive super clubs housing an army of revellers, and this phenomenal rise has led to the scene’s top players being elevated to the status of underground stars.
Recently, as a genre, Dubstep has faced accusations, like its distant cousin Drum & Bass before, of becoming formulaic and reliant on lowest common denominator mass appeal. As with Drum & Bass, Bristol is a vibrant conduit in the Dubstep phenomenon, it has a vast array of producers delivering an increasingly diverse selection of sounds and once again the underground aficionados of the music world are looking to the South West.
The Rise of Dubstep
Dubstep, like most electronic genres, originated from various specific musical styles. Over the years, this type of music was able to develop it’s own sound parameters to form a set of distinct elements that differentiate it from others.
Dubstep comes from the rhythm machine of the UK Garage and thus is a direct descendant of House. Its predecessor, “2-step garage”, or simply “2-step”, is a typically British style of modern electronic dance music, and a relatively popular sub-genre of UK Garage. The term is used to describe general irregularities in rhythms that don’t conform to garage’s traditional “4-to-floor” pulse beat the rhythm lacks the kick drum pattern found in many other styles of electronic music with a regular beat.
Typical 2-step drum patterns features a kick on the 1st and 3rd beat, and shuffled rhythms or the use of triplets applied to other elements
of the percussion, creating a pseudo-funk feel, and resulting in a beat distinguishable from standard house or techno. Although tracks with only two kick drum beats to a bar are perceived as being slower than the traditional “four-to-floor” beat, the audience’s interest is maintained by the inclusion of sporadic snare-placements and/or accents in the drum patterns, scattered rimshots, percussion instruments, as well as syncopated basslines and the use of other instruments.
“As Drum’n’bass was getting faster, heavy and loud, the girls ended up playing UK Garage on Sunday afternoons”
Says Simon Reynolds, a journalist, music critic and author of Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music And Dance Culture (1998).
“A very special sound emerged in the United Kingdom it had a diva like vocals in R & B and was similar to the instrumental B-side of the discs House Americans. The sound spread rapidly, creating a different scene. Some fans were disappointed Jungle enthusiasts, upset with the way the drum’n’bass had made it, others were just fans of House looking for a British version of the sound”
Explains Simon Reynolds.
In the late 90′s, many producers of 2-Step, like El-B, J Da Flex, Oris Jay, Steve Gurley and Zed Bias developed a clear taste for darker arrangements. Soul and Jazz has influenced their production, however more and more the sound represented the spirit of urban, chaotic, decadent, sinister paranoia in the metropolis.
J. Young ©