Monday, November 20, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - November 15/06

Before even beginnng to analyse this groundbreaking album, I will direct you to a far greater authority on dubstep that I will ever be: DJ Rupture, whose Mudd Up! blog (especially this post) is always worthwhile and thought provoking.
I'm so, so late to dubstep and its predecessors/contemporaries: grime, UK garage, 2 step. I dropped out of serious clubbing during drum and bass's long reign in Toronto, so I can't talk about the grassroots impact of this disc, nor can I compare it to any modern milestones of the genre. Nevertheless, for those moments when nothing but the boom bap from a gigantic PA will soothe a troubled mind, there is much to love about dubstep.
And this one makes you think, too. Kode 9's beats are brutal, plodding sonic assaults with percussion and samples tuned just so to provide slivers of harmonic reference. The lack of syncopation on many tracks draws attention to the quality of each sound - this isn't all about sly rhythm programming keeping you locked. Occasionally an echo or some ambient verb will creep in to suggest kinship with the parent genre of dub, but there is no sunshine in these beats whatsoever. That just sets the mood for the Spaceape's LKJ meets William Gibson in a dancehall flow to dominate the sound. The "A + B" comparison doesn't due this MC (or DJ?) justice; he seems equally at home with metaphysical subjects as with community activism. The sometimes tortured processing of his voice adds to the ferocity of the mix. Considering this disc is a collection of work from the last 4 years, it's a remarkalby focussed album.
The focus is all the more remarkable because there aren't all that many dubstep albums yet; it's still a 12" form. This disc reminds me of Run DMC's first album in that way - a collection of a couple of years worth of singles and new material, but very consistent in its spare artistic vision. Dubstep, as I understand it from Rupture's site is a music of specific localness, with local messages and meanings inpenetrable to 'outsiders'. No long playing CD can possibly capture the sound and feeling of the communities in which it thrives - where a DJ and any number of live vocalists keep the flavour local. But this is the power of sound system oriented musics the world over: it's a community-oriented cutting contest at high volume in which the long form effect must be absorbed live and direct. Speaking of local, here's a slice of Toronto dubstep - I suspect the crowd is different in the UK.
Memories Of The Future transcends (and most likely also deeply connects to) whatever local scene birthed it. This is super-fresh dub poetry to my ears, although the music owes just as much to early 80s Detroit (or late 80s Belgium?) Nevertheless, I'm taking my stylistic cue from the JA tonality of the vocals to affix the dub poetry tag to this music. Dub poetry has a history of strange rhythms underpinning contemporary consciousness; I'd like to see what Michael St. George or Afua Cooper would sound like over these types of beats.
Here's a sample of the disc:
quantum - kode 9 & the spaceape (hyperdub)

kau - kahil el zabar's ritual trio (delmark)
tumbleweed - lina allemano four (lumo)
consolacao - tamba trio (emi)
driver down - drumheller (rat drifting)
change over time - sonic liberation front (high two)
mariposa - benitez (vampisoul)
chicano - dennis coffey (vampisoul)
when love comes home - chet ivory and his fabulous avengers (perfect toy)
jota bereber - radio tarifa (nonesuch)
cind eram la 48 - taraf de haidouks (crammed)
sangam - charles lloyd (ecm)
portal - kode 9 & spaceape (hyperdub)
babiwrong dub - echo (inthachamber)
tabla purists - calamalka (blood and fire)
get smart - roy richards (soul jazz/studio one)
try a little smile - doreen shaeffer (heartbeat/studio one)


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