Monday, March 28, 2005

Skank physics

In physics, the Hubble constant is crucially important to the fate of the universe. Using the distance galaxies are away from us and the rate at which they are moving away, the constant tells us whether the universe is expanding or contracting. Whether we expanding exponentially (imagine an upwards curve), not at all (a flat horizontal line) or imploding exponentially (imagine a downwards curve).

With a cheeky lateral shift, maybe the Hubble constant can work as an illuminating analogy the 'ardcore continuum? "Dubble constant" anyone?

Everyone knows the shift from mid nineties jungle to mid noughties d&b has brought about a massive shift in energy levels. D&b's constant is now very high, a rapidly accelerating upwards curve.

Centred around club Forward>> there are a variety of garage hybrids and they are easily separated by their Hubble constant.

The breakbeat garage crew, with their take-you-away vibe derived from Zinc's high octane rinse-outs, can be found closest to d&b in energy levels. Theirs is also a steep upwards curve.

At the other end of the spectrum you have Kode 9's beatless "Sign of the Dub." and Wiley's Devil mixes of "Eskimo" and "Roll Deep Regular." Shorn of any rhythmic momentum, these older tunes have the lowest constants, downward curves of energy loss, dropping you into a dancefloor abyss.

Pitched between them you have dubstep's skank, neither wishing to "take you away" (ie "take you back to rave") with the caustic breaks nor leadening your limbs with what Jess called ankle-deep bass. Their curve is neither pitched violently upwards, nor tumbling precipitously downwards.

It might seem like hair splitting but within such a compact scene like dubstep, the nature of this curvature - positive or negative, expanding or contracting - is acutely relevant.

On one hand you have the downwards curving of the "halfstep," the boom-boom-crack rocksteady pattern that dominated last year's dubstep sessions, as observed recently by Dubquixote. This is was pioneered by dubplate master Hatcha, using Digital Mystikz and Skreams tunes, and taken to yet further extremes by that other dub soulja Youngsta armed with Loefah and D1 dubs.

Unlike the breaks crew, with their echoes of '97's nu-school movement and '90 4Hero before it, this negative curve of bass-space was unique. Junglists I dragged to raves looked confused. "When is it going to go off?" they asked. It wasn't, I smiled. The contradictions were glorious: 138-140bpm beats that felt slower than trip hop yet smothered in ten tons of sub bass. It tickled your plain/pleasure barriers. Standing in front of the speaker in Plastic People was a full body-experience. This skank was a compressed cauldron that never exploded, a glorious analogy for London living.

But recently there has been an upwards bending in the dubstep curve, pioneered in two different ways by Mala Digital Mystikz and Kode 9. Finding a degree of curvature somewhere just above zero, they've located a new skank, certainly within recent dubstep times. In energy it recalls 2step garage perhaps, though the sonics of the tracks set them far apart from that movement.

Anthems from Mala like "Neverland" and "Forgive" raise the energy levels without entering to caustic d&b/breaks territory, as showcased at the recent landmark DMZ party in basstown Brixton. Kode 9's recent sets, by contrast, have been energised by grime biggie's like Virgo's "Monster" and Aftershock riddims. Witness also his signing of Burial's swung "South London Burroughs".

Centred around zero, this new skank - neither rapidly imploding nor exploding - is like a ground-hugging bass wave spreading at street level outwards from a south London epicentre. Clipping decaying buildings and dark estates, it is spreading rapidly beyond the M25. Following the earth's curvature, the bass has said to have been felt on soundsystems in Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds, Baltimore, Sweden, Portugal, New York… and beyond. Hold tight myman Hubble.


∞ infinite ∞ said...

So is this an eloborate way of saying that Kode9 and Digital Mystikz aint playing half-step anymore? heh-heh ;-)

N.E. said...

....and I LOVE it!!! More of this shit please Mr. Blackdown!

j. said...

heh, you guys always make me want to give this stuff one more try

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