Wednesday, August 20, 2008

State of the bass nation

Cyrus at Generation Bass, Maida Vale

Two years after her “Dubstep Wars” show grabbed the bubbling dubstep scene and caused it to boil over, Mary Anne Hobbs took the show’s seven original DJs and asked them to predict the taste of the future.

Oneman, Quest and Silkie, Random Trio, Joker, Chef, Starkey and Kulture were accompanied by hosts Nomad and Sgt Pokes down into the bowels of the BBC’s Maida Vale studios.

There’s something special about Maida Vale. It feels arcane, steeped in history and prestige. It’s underground, which only adds to the atmosphere, as does the mass of maze-like corridor routes and identical doors, behind which lurk things like orchestra’s tuning up. Without Mary Anne’s producer to lead you to the light, you feel like you might never escape.

Oneman, Mellissa Bradshaw, Boomnoise and Starkey at Generation Bass, Maida ValeOneman at Generation Bass, Maida Vale


But we – various headz like 1Xtra’s PR Indy, Georgie Drumz of the South, Melissa, Boomnoise, LD and all the mates and girlfriends of the DJs – recently found ourselves on a balcony, looking down onto the decks, staring intently into Mary Anne’s broadcast desk and into the glass panelled control booth behind, as the first track hit the needle (Quest’s epic “Stand”). Suddenly all the joking evaporates as the gravity of the moment hits.

Mary Anne Hobbs at Generation Bass, Maida Vale

Since Dubstep Wars, it’s not been 100% “all good.” Yes the scene has got hype, critical acclaim and the audience the music’s creativity deserved, and its DJs have had the chances afforded to them that were never possible in the preceding six years: and that’s not to be sniffed at. But, as I’ve outlined several times before, there’s been a massive dilution of quality, a lot of cloning, a stagnation of innovation, and a clumsy rush to the most base, harder-faster-noisier zone of fruitless intensification – from many of the core headz as well as the new comers. An audience has come at a massive cost: quite frankly there’s been many times that previously great nights had been either unbearable to be at, I’ve left the room or not chosen to attend in the first place.

But over seven sets – do you know what? – Generation Bass left me feeling really positive. As the audio attests, this was dubstep DJing at its finest: experimental selectors drawing out the most exclusive VIP section to surge the scene towards multiple new possibilities. Quest and Silkie threw down their usual tech-house hypeness. Oneman and Chef did some ridiculous mixing: the latter on 3 decks, the former in his usual endless, locked tight, jaw drop fashion. Oney dropped a brand new Darkstar bit that sounded nice ‘n’ tasty, while Chef drew some next jungly Cluekid dub. Kulture seems to have been listening to a lot of Skream and Burial, while Random Trio unveiled a new, harder, riff-based direction.

Joker at Generation Bass, Maida Vale

Joker aired his awesome collaboration with Rustie, which is mad crunky. But it was Starkey FTW as far as I’m concerned, ripping up the Serrato to fling down cuts of his – trust me – amazing debut album, all post-grime 8bit riffage and hyped energetics. The first wonky long player? It doesn’t disappoint.

So on this offering I found myself pleasantly surprised: dubstep seems in rude health. OK 50% of the innovation is happening at the peripheries rather than the core but that’s cool: as the scene has now internationalised and delocalised, what is core rather than edge anyway?

Soon it was all over and the DJs began celebrating as only they can: with neat whiskey. Joker managed to poleaxe himself with about 15 minutes to comic effect and someone, who shall remain nameless, was doing some very amusing camp impressions of a grime legend. The banter levels were soaring to levels I simply can’t test when I ducked out. So will this generation rule the dubstep nation? Alongside several absent talented individuals: let’s hope so.

· For some much better photos by a real photographer, check Georgie's shots on Flickr.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

is there a rip of this anywhere?

Blackdown said...

Pls show your thanks to Mary Ann during this week by listening again online at the BBC, so the traffic figures can be counted for the show...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio1_aod.shtml?radio1/hobbs

Corpsey said...

A nice shot of optimism for the ears.

Joker!

hugonajera said...

I agree with your critique of the scene.. so its good to hear you comfortable with who has the reigns for now... phew!!

cólz said...

I think you have totally hit the nail on the head on this. so many amazing tracks on this, my optimism is off the scale today.

palerider said...

as a disconnected reggae fan i'm glad to hear the marcia griffiths 'stepping out of babylon' sample - not so glad to hear saxophones creeping in - reminds me of drum n bass lite a la roni size. surely you can keep the fretless bass at bay / will there be set list/ rip soon?

Anonymous said...

anybody know what tune gets played (by starkey i think) at about 1.20:30? switches from halfstep to full on 4/4 electro stomp, wicked track.

Anonymous said...

shit, meant at 1.02:30 (ish).

Blackdown said...

Isn't that Starkey "Pressure" ?

starkey said...

at 1:02:30 i'm playing "Dark Alley"... but the tune mixing in at 1:03:33 is MOVES!!! "All Skate". That's the one you're asking about that switches to 4x4. (those times are according to the bbc radio 1 playback on the iPlayer.)

Bok Bok said...

all skate is one of the tune of the year for me as well as loads of starkey's material

his new stuff is always at the front of my bag
everyone can relate to it, and whats more it sounds BRIGHT not dark and still works so well in the dance.

Starkey FTW indeed

CLUBMOSS said...

big big big. joker & starkey have got the be two of the baddest out there right now.

DuskKeysound said...

Starkey is a badman.

That is all.

DuskKeysound said...

Starkey is a badman.

That is all.

pollywog said...

the future has already happened...

...it's been and gone already

don't you remember or were you too fucked up from the night before and didn't get the memo ???

...for fucks sake read between the lines !!!

even better, READ MY LIPS

*mwah*

selrahc said...

http://rapidshare.com/files/140618141/Generation_Bass.part2.rar.html
http://rapidshare.com/files/140618135/Generation_Bass.part1.rar.html

pass = selrahc

split into 8 tracks, intro + the 7 sets. 320kbps i think, good quality anyway.

MLR said...

any word on the starkey album would be gushed over....

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