Friday, April 28, 2006

It's a Blog so its got to have something about Dubstep...

There hasn't been much Dupstep shopping done around these parts of late but its clear that things are picking up for South London's best-kept secret with BBC Collective recently delivering a short assessment of the scene.

Its a little perverse that while 'the scene' seems increasingly to operate for itself and its mates (doing away with the concept of financial reward with the 10" dubplate culture that renders the commercial release of tracks almost an afterthought) it's finally gaining popular ground.

Listening to Kode 9's Dubstep Allstars Vol. 3 there are some fine tracks, particularly those from Pressure & Warrior Queen, Blackdown and Burial. But there's much aimless post-Rave doodling as well. Over the course of an hour this mix becomes a little oppressive, the music dehumanised by its obsession with urban dissonance, never kind enough to offer resolution. You feel like taking these kids on a trip out to the countryside on a sunny afternoon and reintroducing their faces to 'smile'.

And am I the only person that found the concept of the "dub poet" irritating enough back in the 80s not to wish for its reincarnation in what purports to be one of the most forward-thinking musical cultures of the moment? The entire mix is draped in an echoing, formless monologue that recalls the dark days between Linton Kwesi Johnson and the On-U Soundsystem. Benjamin Zephaniah's recent LP if we're being really uncharitable.

Meet, then, Dubstep's antithesis: "Return To The Sea" by Islands, a group formed from the ashes of Unicorn, and fronted by that band's Nick Diamonds. Unicorns, I'm reliably informed, shared the arguably slightly twee musical sentiments and joyful rhythmic sense on offer here. So, I've got some shopping to do. There's a Wolf Parade/Arcade Fire connection as well it seems, although none of that everyone-at-the-local-youth-club-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to noisemaking.

At this early stage, all I can tell you is that these songs have none of the human absence of Dubstep and a surfeit of glowing, human pop brilliance. And that I'll be listening to this record again and enjoying it in months to come.


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