Dubstep is now an ugly, bloated mess.
It's out of shape - where once there was muscle, now there is fat. Where once there was sleek, skeletal design now there are a random assortment of sonic weapons, firing randomly and injuring ears across the planet.
All is not lost, however. A new breed of producers are reaching back, exploring the facets which made dubstep such an intimidating, exciting proposition back in its initial flowering.
Dubbed 'the dungeon sound' by Youngsta, it finds an advocate in Plastician whose new Dubstep Allstars' mix seems to draw from the same well. Featuring a plethora of original productions, ClashMusic decided to ask Plastician to name some of the productions which inspired him during the making of his new material.
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TGS - On Tha Run (Horsepower Productions Remix)
I could've chosen almost any Horsepower track from their back catalogue to help epitomise the vibe I tried to replicate in the early stages of my Allstars mix, but this remix of On Tha Run is perhaps my favourite Horsepower track ever. The way Horsepower produce the drums to compliment the sound of the samples and film score they use in so many of their tracks is something often overlooked in today's much cleaner style of production, particularly at the more commercial and established end of the dubstep sound. They keep just enough dirt on the drums which doesn't alienate them from the sound effects and ambience from the film samples which are mainly lifted from Benny Ill's vast VHS collection. It takes some skill to pull this off but it is evident in every Horsepower track. The Jaydrop tracks in the Allstars mix particularly remind me of the Horsepower style and form the base of the beginning of the selection - very much how Horsepower paved the way for everything that came after them back in the early days of dubstep.
Macabre Unit - Lift Off
Although I'm pretty sure there was never anything produced quite like this before it was released, I'm also pretty sure nothing since it's release has been like it either. I have to include it in this list purely because of the memories it holds for me. When this track used to drop in the clubs back when I was playing it around 2004 - 2007 (if my memory serves me correctly) it used to stand out so much from all the tracks being mixed around it. You could put this next to a grime track by somebody like Terror Danjah, or you could mix it right out of an early Coki production like Haunted. Somehow this track just worked. I love versatile tracks like this which are almost genreless. This track personifies that era in the dubstep movement where things started to get more experimental, and I feel like we're going through a similar transition right now, with so many new influences within the sound, people are trying hard to create music that is both explorational, but simple enough for it to work across various platforms and genres. Tracks like this keep scenes evolving as they provide the glue that links various sounds together and allow DJ's the freedom to break the mould as opposed to sticking to what is expected of them.
Joker - Digidesign
Joker has always been a master of melodies and this for me was when he really stepped up his game. His use of simple riffs and cute chord progressions in this track works so well, and it's one of my favourite tunes from the later stages of what is widely spoken of as dubstep's golden era. When I first met Joker he was 15 years old, his tracks he would send me back then were hugely influenced by video games and even here that influence is still audible. I think 90% of music being created in today's world will be influenced somehow by video games or sounds which are emitted from various forms of technology. Joker was one of the first producers of his generation to come to light so I think it's important to add this to my list as for me it represents the new generation of young producers coming through now. People like Swindle, Guido and Starkey are still championing this style of production and it seems to be almost timeless. All of the old Joker stuff from that era still sounds fresh today and I think that the same will be said of the other producers I've just mentioned if you listen back to their current releases in a few years' time.
Skream - Shake It
Skream has released so many classic tracks over the years but this track for me again was along the lines of the sound I was trying to emulate when selecting for the Allstars mix. It's got so much swing to it, and manages to find a perfect harmony between the dark, grimy tones and the uplifting shuffle of the drums and effects. Listening to it definitely conjours up memories of standing right next to the bassbins at Plastic People. You can almost feel the tidal sway of heads from left to right that would fill the room in the club, it's definitely one of those tracks that we don't hear enough any more but certainly a track for the people who used to make the trip to plastic people every fortnight, or every week - I forget exactly what the rotation was at FWD around that time, but it was certainly not as far back as the monthly events. Anyway, rambling done - this one had to get a mention. Great track and perhaps Skream's most under-rated production in my opinion.
The Bug - Jah War (Loefah Remix)
For me, this is the best example of when dubstep and grime come together in perfect harmony. I still remember the first time I heard this. I was stood to the right of the booth at mass for DMZ. I had literally just arrived and Loefah and Digital Mystikz were playing back to back as they always do. As I entered the main room there was a huge cheer which suggested I had arrived right on time for something special. Obviously I'd just missed a huge reload (as much as I'd like to have thought the cheer was for my own entrance). The track started back up again and I was greeted to the dance by the sound of Flow Dan on the intro of what dropped into the most brutal growl of sub bass and half time drums, complimented further by the vocals of Flow Dan's verse. It was not long before the track was pulled up once more for us all to enjoy the rush of that initial introduction of bass from the intro of this monster tune. Having always had a foot in each of the sounds, I was especially excited to hear Loefah remixing a track with Flow Dan on it. It was still rare to hear grime MC's on dubstep tracks back then, you could probably count on one hand the amount of tracks there were. This one goes in as I still to this day love when the two scenes combine to make something really special. And for me, there still isn't anything that quite hits the spot as well as this one!
Introduction by Robin Murray
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'Dubstep Allstars Vol. 10' is set to be released via Tempa on February 4th.