musings, ramblings, observations, all blown out of proportion and mistaken for insights

Thursday, January 14, 2010

dubstep: the music of the future?

In Allan Moore's classic 'graphic novel' Watchmen, the hyperintellectual superhero Ozymandias described 'dub' music as sort of music of the future, a "a sort of hybrid between electronic music and reggae. It’s a fascinating study in the new musical forms generated when a largely pre-technological culture is given access to modern recording techniques without the technological preconceptions that we’ve allowed to accumulate, limiting our vision." Using the fictional character Ozymandias' description one can imagine that he views dub as a sort of music of the future, a result of technological advances transcending the cultural barriers they set up, allowing progression in musical forms into styles unlike anything heard before. Dub, a genre which is practically responsible for the existence of the hip-hop DJ, continues to evolve into new forms to this day, it's most recent incarnation being in the form of 'dubstep'.

Dubstep is best known for it's obsessive focus on the bass and it's use of a whacked out 'wobbly' sound. Very popular in British clubs, it seems that the music is catching on in popularity in the States, where it's unconventional beats grace many remixes of popular artists. While dubstep is far from conventional dance music, it's beats seem to fuel the motions of many clubbers in a -frenzied and chaotic way that is even more removed from typical dancing than the freeform body shakes of ravers.

Dubstep is just as much about atmospherics as it is about beats however. Listening to records from dubstep artists such a Burial creates a feeling of urban degradation and suspense. There is little of the feel-good vibe of most dance music. In fact the sounds created in dubstep seem to best fit the vibe of cyberpunk writers like William Gibson.

The best way to experience dubstep at it's purest is to check out the recently released compilation '5:5 years of Hyperdub'. The compilation covers highlights of artists on the Hyperdub label in a way that exposes what dubstep is all about while sounding diverse at the same time. While this is far from a complete compilation of all essential dubstep releases, it certainly will leave a newcomer to the genre entranced. The more underground side of the genre is explored rather than the more club friendly side (called 'brostep' by some).

While dubsteps roots in trip-hop, dub, and other forms of dance music is apparent, it mutates these styles into something that at it's best sounds like nothing else. Because of this one could say the music points to the future, being unafraid to let go of the conventional and break rules. Dubstep is a fairly new form of music too, only existing as a style since the early 2000's. The future of the style is unclear, but one can only imagine it's impact on other forms of music and observe it's rise to prominence in modern music.


  1. Dude... Dub wasn't some term he made up, Dub is an actual music style with Reggae and Electronic roots. It's not talking or speculating about Dubstep at all.

    1. This man speaks the truth! Listen to him!

      Also, dub started in the 60s. Watchmen came out in 1986-87. So it wasn't precognitive even so.

  2. some consider Lee Scratch Perry's "Blackboard Jungle" from 1973 to be the first dub album.. it is definitely a potent brew of ganga beats, bass and electronics. Adrian Sherwood and others were already brewing dub with more industrial sounds by mid 80s.


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