Dubstep 10Wobble?
January 17, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Tell me what I need to know about dubstep.

Somehow -- despite having a music-fan pedigree that started with Skinny Puppy and Ministry in the late '80s, and kind of morphed through groups like Meat Beat Manifesto into IDM in the '90s concurrent with trip-hop and hip-hop, and enjoying the Ninja Tune stable of bands and sounds through the early 2000s -- I have missed dubstep entirely. As in, I like, just heard about it a couple of months ago via MeFi, and other than a few basic concepts (beat dropping, "wobble") know nothing at all about it.

If I were to make a two- or three-week listening schedule to try to pick up on what dubstep's all about, what are the seminal releases? What's the absolute essential stuff I need to listen to if I want to have a fairly decent overview?

I'm really not interested in hearing reasons not to listen to dubstep. I appreciate that it's got a lot of detractors, but please make recommendations from the angle of a Richard D. James/u-Ziq/Amon Tobin fan trying to get a 101 on this whole sub-subgenre he's never explored before.
posted by Shepherd to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
As far as seminal records, Burial's Untrue is a big one and my personal favorite.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a big fan of Skrillex, you should really check out his stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:51 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and, Mary Anne Hobbs is the DJ who basically broke dubstep to the masses in the late '00s. There's an archive of her shows here. I don't think any are available to listen to, but there's artists and tracks listed.
posted by griphus at 1:55 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good explanation of what dubstep is:
posted by victory_laser at 1:55 PM on January 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Worth checking out this current post on the blue.
posted by lukemeister at 1:56 PM on January 17, 2012

It's weird - dubstep seems like the least well defined electronic genre in the history of poorly defined electronic genres. On the one hand you have Skrillex and the Butch Clancy mix of Pumped Up Kicks (and to a lesser extent artists like Deadmau5), on the other hand you have Chrissy Murderbot putting together a mix labeled Dubstep that sounds more post-Jungle/dNb than anything else.

I suspect it's turned into an umbrella term for everything that goes wubwubwub. A DJ friend of mine once defined it as music that sounds like a really good party going on next door that you can just sort of hear through the walls.
posted by Kyol at 2:00 PM on January 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Here is Dubstep warz (2006) from Mary Anne Hobbs's radio 1 show. I think this was the first widely available and cohesive "document" of the scene.

Also check out her compilations Warrior Dubz (2006), Evangeline (2008) and Wild Angels (2009). The last one is not "dubstep" so much as just focused on experimental bass music.
posted by subtle-t at 2:00 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Aww, I biffed the link for butch clancy. Here.
posted by Kyol at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I suspect it's turned into an umbrella term for everything that goes wubwubwub.

Not to mention lots of things that don't go wubwubwub (some people even call most of the wubwubwub stuff 'brostep' and differentiate it from dubstep.)
posted by naju at 2:02 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Listen to anything by Digital Mystikz. I'd recommend starting with the 'Box of Dub – Dubstep and Future Dub' compilation as well, it was on Spotify last I checked. Also check out any record released by Hyperdub, '5 years of Hyperdub' is probably a good place to start, also on Spotify.
posted by blaisedell at 2:07 PM on January 17, 2012

You may find this series posted on Cyborgology helpful: Part 1, Part 2.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2012

Before dubstep had a name, certain UK garage producers put out "experimental" works that prefigured the scene. Here are a few proto-dubstep names to check out.

El-B - Burial (worth checking out on his own merits) has basically admitted that he is copying El-B's drum programming and not doing a particularly good job.

Horsepower Productions - To the Rescue (2004) - you can really hear the dub influence here, filtered through the Berlin/basic channel/chain reaction production sensibility. This specific would later be rediscovered by appleblim and others - check out, for example, Dubstep Allstars Vol. 6.
posted by subtle-t at 2:23 PM on January 17, 2012

Reddit User JoeTea had a brilliant explanation for the drop earlier today actually:

"Well, first the 'drums' start beating, then they beat a bit faster, then a bit faster, then a bit faster then they stop, someone says something and optimums prime takes a shit. In every. single. song/"

That pretty much sums up the genre in my opinion.

And here is a thread with a general history of the genre and where some people think it is headed.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's several hours of dubstep essential mixes.
posted by empath at 2:28 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, per that thread, I highly recommend you actually Go To A Fucking Club. There's no way to 'get' dubstep listening to it at home.

Montreal has shitloads of dubstep nights. Make a trip to go see it.

Here's something in February.
posted by empath at 2:34 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Probably the easiest way to accomplish this--if we define "easy" as "completely and utterly passive, not requiring more than a single mouse click"--is to log into a Dubstep radio station over iTunes and listen ad infinitum. The Dubstep Channel on "Digitally Imported" is available on the dropdown list of iTunes radio stations; it's a melange of stuff heavy on the whump whump mixed in with lighter fair.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2012

I listen to a lot of dubstep, and a lot of DI.fm, but their dubstep channel baffles me. Most of it is dubstep, some of it is really good dubstep, but there always seems to be about 20% or so that is, honest to god, reggae.
posted by xedrik at 3:47 PM on January 17, 2012

Best answer: You may or may not know what Jungle & UK Garage & 2-step are. They were big throught the 90s. Then you had grime, which was big in the early 00s. That was basically a mix of 2-step and hip-hop. Some of the prominent artists were Wiley & Dizzee Rascal.

A little bit later, a much darker instrumental form of garage started coming along. It was a blend of the 2-step beat with a heavy dub bass, so it obviously got named dubstep. Try some Benga, Digital Mystikz, and Burial. Somehow, somewhere along the line it became a sort of heavy metal parody of itself, with all those WOMP WOMP basslines.

(start the grump) And now there's a form of dubstep called brostep that means Skrillex-style music. Listen to this from about a minute onwards. It sounds incredibly similar to me screwing around on a couple of delay pedals. The kids call that the drop, and they goddamn love it. So more power to them. (end grump)

FWIW, the current thing in the UK is called funky. There's also a move towards a post-dubstep sound, with people like James Blake and Jamie XX (from The XX)
posted by Magnakai at 4:01 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, saying:
"Somehow, somewhere along the line it became a sort of heavy metal parody of itself, with all those WOMP WOMP basslines." was way unfair. It's just obviously become heavily influenced by industrial music like NIN and Marylin Manson.
posted by Magnakai at 4:05 PM on January 17, 2012

One thing I'll say from my explorations of dubstep on this very day is: listen to it with decent headphones, at the very least. The bass that is so critical to it just doesn't reproduce over laptop speakers.
posted by KathrynT at 7:18 PM on January 17, 2012

Nowadays the genre is so broad many "dubstep" tracks sound nothing like dubstep. There have been some good recommendations of the early sound in this thread which is probably a good place to start and from there you can see where it takes you and what you like. The more underground UK labels are doing some interesting things nowadays.

My only suggestion is to not listen to dross like Katy B and (this one is controversial) James Blake.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:06 AM on January 18, 2012

Katy B's tracks are actually pretty good. Did you know that Benga is her producer? She just sings.
posted by empath at 6:27 AM on January 18, 2012

empath: "Katy B's tracks are actually pretty good. Did you know that Benga is her producer? She just sings"

And boy do we wish she didn't...
posted by turkeyphant at 6:29 AM on January 18, 2012

Best answer: I have the same music background taste as you. I've recently taken a journey into dubstep too. I found that I'm more of a fan of 'BROSTEP' than dubstep. Some BROSTEP artist:

Bare Noize
Kill the Noise

You can listen to some of them here: http://8tracks.com/mixes/brostep
posted by bleucube at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

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