This month in Subdetritus we take a snapshot of where things are at in the world of bass music right now. While we are all huddling around heaters, it’s the height of the northern hemisphere’s summer and much of the scene’s big hitters are out on the road peddling their sounds at festivals and clubs the world over.
James Blake took on the Park Stage at Glastonbury last month to rave reviews fuelling anticipation of his imminent Australian tour. The electronic music Mecca that is Sonar Festival descended on Barcelona the week before Glastonbury with a bass line-up only dreams are made of. From many friends of mine who were there, it seemed there was almost too much good music to absorb. While the more pop-leaning bass acts like dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man, Katy B and Zinc reportedly sounded pretty dull and uninspired, there were astounding sets turned in by the likes of Aphex Twin, Downliners Sekt, Raime, Teebs, oOoOO, Buraka Som Sistema, Shackleton and Illum Sphere.
Radio queen and bass champion Mary Anne Hobbs played a 2:30am set to an estimated crowd of 15,000 people at Sonar and backed it up by a sunrise set to 20,000 at Benicassim Festival last weekend. Hobbs has a lot to be happy about at the moment with her much lauded return to radio two weeks ago on Xfm. While her BBC Radio 1 Experimental show (a favourite of this column for years) was in a mid-week timeslot in the wee hours of the morning, her new show on Xfm is a primetime 7-10pm slot on Saturdays. “This is such a victory,” Hobbs said in a press release. “Not just for me, but for all the artists I believe in and all the live listeners who care so deeply. My aim… to create some truly mind-blowing, redefining radio on Xfm.” Her first show featured guest mixes from Deep Medi Musik’s Silkie and LuckyMe’s Machinedrum, while last week featured mixes from Ninja Tune’s Daedelus and Planet Mu’s Falty DL. Highly recommended if you’re hungry for fresh underground bass music.
Speaking of which there have been plenty of new releases to heat up those speakers this winter. Zomby has just dropped his second album Dedication for indie label 4AD which builds on the woozy, synth-heavy Nintendo-step of his highly regarded early releases for labels like Hyperdub, Ramp and Werk. Zomby is an artist who has always operated outside of the status quo and while this album is relatively short, it contains so many great moments and ideas. The latest transmission from Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder collective is the proper debut album from Samiyam. While the LA-centric “wonky” hip hop sound is starting to sound tired in the hands of many, Sam Baker’s Album possesses a funk and fidgetiness that sounds more exciting than most of the woozy, bass-heavy Dilla knock-offs making the rounds. Following two self-released CDRs, recent visitor Pursuit Grooves has also released her debut album Frantically Hopeful. Interestingly released on the Bristol-based label Tectonic run by Pinch, the record is an eclectic listen still firmly rooted in future soul with a definite Dam-Funk vibe that flirts a little with pop music in a good way. Other hotly anticipated bass music releases on the horizon include the new full-length from Ras G on Ramp and the new EP from Scotland’s Hudson Mohawke on Warp Records.
On the Brisbane tip, it would be remiss of me not to mention local duo Science Project who seem unstoppable at the moment with upcoming shows in Melbourne and a support slot for Los Angeles-based Nosaj Thing this week. Their deep love of dub and reggae has been the focus of a couple of beat tapes that are available on their Bandcamp page – one a tribute to Bob Marley and the other to Osbourne Ruddock (a.k.a. King Tubby). The beat tapes feature versions by the boys themselves and locals such as Erther, Syntax, Walrii and Puzahki.
Do you ever stop to think about how global and permeating the electronic bass music scene has become? Here’s a thought: the club nights, the DJs, the producers, the MCs, the labels, the remixes, the army of fans, the culture, the jargon, the equipment and the infrastructure of dance culture from London to Detroit all would not exist as we know it today had it not been for one tiny island – Jamaica.
This may seem as obvious as the nose on your face, but there’s a truth to it that most dance music fans don’t even realize or think about. Well over fifty years ago set to a complicated political backdrop, the music lovers of Jamaica mixed the early r’n’b and blues they heard being broadcast on Florida radio stations with their own music and ideologies. This melting pot gave birth to a distinctly unique musical language known as reggae. Before long there was a thriving scene of bands on the island that facilitated the opening of recording studios, particularly in Kingston, to capture this musical phenomenon. One of the most famous was Studio One founded by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd whose very first recording session took place in 1957.
Within ten years producers at these studios had started to experiment with the recordings of these bands, taking out the vocals and emphasizing the drum and bass tracks or the ‘riddim’. Known as dubs, these ground-breaking productions were pioneered by the likes of King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry and often involved extensive reverb, echo and delay effects as well as cut up vocal or instrumental samples from the original versions. These were among the first people to look at the recording studio as instrument in its own right and paved the way for the modern concepts of an electronic producer and the remix.
These instrumental dubs with their heavy drums and bass were pressed to vinyl (dubplates) and were played by DJs (selectors) on big sound systems set up in the street. These earliest incarnations of club nights didn’t have Facebook to promote their nights but instead relied on word of mouth – who had the biggest sound system and the best dubs? The notion of an MC also came out of all this with people on microphones “toasting” and hyping the crowd over the largely instrumental tunes. Here we are fifty years later witnessing the exact same thing at summer festivals and nightclubs. Respect!
*** On a related note, if you are interested in checking out some quality roots reggae and dub – make sure you get down to JUMBO MUMBO. Run by Erther and Ben Osbourne, Jumbo Mumbo is a new monthly reggae event taking place at the Rumpus Room in the West End. From all accounts the first one was awesome. Hit the image below for info on upcoming events…
Lately its been hard not to notice some serious bass rumblings going on right in our own backyard. There is some mad talent bubbling away in Brisbane right now. Here are a couple of local highlights. More to come…
I wanna give a belated kudos to the Science Project lads on the release of their Alchemystic EP a month or two back. Personally, I’ve been really digging the cheeky vibe of ‘Jelly Momster’ and the rawness of ‘Mind Control’. You can purchase it here via iTunes.
If you haven’t already, be sure to wrap your ears around ‘Fly This‘ – a recently posted track by Erther. We have had the pleasue of having him DJ at numeous Dank Morass parties over the past few years, including the recent Kryptic Minds gig. Definitely looking forward to more beats from Erther’s chamber.
For those who like a litle prose with their beats, Brisbane has definitely got its blog on as well…
Mongo’s Mixtape Mansion – run by Mongo who used to DJ regularly at Rude Bwoyz parties. Links to some eclectic mixes.
The swarthy Dank Morass crew have reached deep into Davy Jones’ locker to bring you bilge rats the finest leviathans of bass-heavy mayhem! Prepare to be keelhauled by our fearless selectors as they take you 20,000 leagues under the dank with a booty of dubstep, jungle, dnb, hiphop and ye olde futurebeats.
Heading up the fleet is the captain of Australia’s premier dubstep label Aquatic Lab Records – direct from Sydney Town, the one and only FARJ. Making his debut appearance at a Dank Morass party, Farj has been at the helm of Australian dubstep and garage since day dot. Along with Paul Fraser, he hosts weekly radio show Garage Pressure on Sydney’s FBI and has been responsible for bringing some of the biggest names in dubstep out to Australia. Aquatic Lab Records has reached world-class status as a dubstep label unleashing beats from the likes of Seven, Caspa, Rusko, Zed Bias and Cotti. Word on the seven seas is there are plans in the ballast for a sister label due to drop later this year. Of course, it goes without saying that this corsair has schooners of unreleased dubs from a who’s who of producers making any type of music suffixed with the word ‘step’.
But thats not all the loot we’ve got for ye scurvy dogs! The Morass is incredibly excited to have onboard once again the formidable combination of ERTHER and DREADKNOWLEDGE. These pirates have been plundering record stores and rocking taverns for many a moonless night now, and are packing longboats of nothing but the dopest jungle, dnb and dubstep. Fire in the hole! Of course, a Dank soiree would not be complete without the blood-curdling, swashbuckling sounds of SWOB, DANCK and WALRII. This will be Swob’s last Dank Morass appearance for 3-4 months as he prepares to set sail for foreign lands bountiful with gold, rum and women.
Anchors away from 9pm on Saturday 23rd May upstairs at the Step Inn. And it won’t cost you all your pieces of eight either – just $5 before 10pm or $10 after. Yo-ho yo-ho, a bass heavy night indeed!