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Bass cadet April 15, 2021

Posted by sjroby in Uncategorized.
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One thing about telework: I can listen to whatever music I want to, as loud as I want to. Today I’m listening to some of Tempa’s Dubstep Allstars compilations from back when dubstep still mattered a bit, volume 09 by Silkie and Quest and volume 10 by Plastician. I’ve always liked electronic music, but for a long time that seemed to be the province of insipid New Agers or microgenre-obsessed UK dance music producers. Techstep? Darkstep? Glitch? What?

When I first read about dubstep in XLR8R magazine or wherever, it sounded interesting. And I had an eMusic account, and many of the key labels and distributors were there, so I could get a lot of it quickly, easily, inexpensively and legally. It’s always been about home listening for me, I have to admit. I would have been already over 40, married, and suburban when I first heard it, so late night clubbing wasn’t my thing. But dubstep at its best has a lot that worked for home listening. A lot of it is atmospheric; the music may be a long way from maximalism, but it can capture moods. The speed, at 140 bpm, is not sleep-inducing. More importantly, the syncopated rhythms are a lot more interesting than straightforward house or techno 4/4 rhythms. But most of it is also instrumental. So it works as background music without being boring, but it can also work as foreground music. Not all of it, of course. Sturgeon’s Law applies.

But a lot of things came together at the right time. Electronic music magazines were still producing print issues, record stores still existed, but there were also a lot of mp3 and wav sellers online and places like dubstepforum. There was a lot being produced, a lot of communication going on, and it was a scene anyone could follow along without having to be present. You could invisibly keep up with a lot of interesting developments. Buying mp3s from Boomkat or mail ordering Big Up magazine or buying Woofah at a record store meant you were making at least a financial contribution to the scene.

It came to an end, partly due to outsiders taking the sound and dumbing it down, partly due to insiders taking the sound and dumbing it down. It’s hardly the only music scene to crash and burn as a result of worldwide success. But a lot of that music still works for me.