"Lisa Blanning has some on-the-money comments about the post-dubstep interzone noting that with operatives like Night Slugs et al there's been the emergence of "a real 'wot do you call it' sound... but part of the reason this sound doesn't have a name is because it doesn't have any defining characteristics. It's a mixture, instead of a synthesis, of so many existing club forms. While it doesn't lack energy, the pursuit of the next mutation is audibly uncertain, and it probably won't come from this quarter."
"This chimed with the feeling I got reading Martin Clark's Pitchfork survey of the year in dubstep/grime/funky/dubbage/road rap... the sense of a congested space, a frenetic criss-crossing of DJs and producers akin to a crowded concourse at a railway junction... a bustling profusion of genres blurring into each other... Yet house and garage and funky and 2step aren't that far apart really, the distances between them aren't large enough for the movements to-and-fro across that space to register as a soundclash or transgressive passage through border control... Blackdown's survey forms a book-end to 2010 with his behold-the-plenty column from the start of the year... which was one of the things that first got me musing towards the concept of hyperstasis."
-- Blissblog, December 15th.
I wanted to add a few comment to these quotes by Simon Reynolds and Lisa Blanning, because something really doesn’t sit well with me, between the analysis above and for me the musical strength of 2010.
Now I know everyone - critics, producers, DJs and fans alike - enjoys being swept off their feet by a romance with an entirely new musical scene. Part of the intoxicating effect is that you suddenly don’t know where you are for a second (but you like it) and I’ve loved that feeling as much as anyone.
The problem is, in the absence of a new, inebriating new movement that reveals itself in those familiar “disorientating” patterns, I’m not sure it’s fair as a consequence to write off the rest, the delocalised “interzone” as Simon calls it. Why? Because the interzone has made some startlingly amazing individual records this year and collectively they sum to a vintage year, well, for me at least. The problem is this new, delocalised structure doesn’t fit with previous patterns of tight, focused scenes. So if you went looking for that and that only, you probably didn’t find it.
You could ask why the hardcore continuum hasn’t delivered a new singularity this year, but to answer that you’ve got to look at the direction two of the key loci went in 2010. Lots of the grassroots road support shifted from grime to road rap, and from funky to house & dubbage – and what do these shifts both have in common? They’re the agents of the nuum re-connecting back into the “dark matter” in the nuum galaxy: the two vast established international scenes rap and house. And while I’m confident in time road rap and dubbage will evolve into startlingly original, free standing movements, for now there’s an inherent conservatism inbuilt in plugging yourself back into the formulas of house or rap that makes it hard to simultaneously deliver the wot-do-u-call-it? intoxication.
But away from why there was no seismic shift in 2010, and back to why the 130 space shouldn’t be written off. Lisa says its parts has no “defining characteristics.” Simon that it’s parts “aren't that far apart.”
Yes maybe this space has no defining characteristics but that’s its strength not its weakness. If people are looking for the next “wow” moment, a long line in singular “wow” moments, isn’t the biggest wow of them all that this one hasn’t come packaged as before? That in a hyperconnected, delocalised world of fast musical idea-exchange that the new singularity wouldn’t come packaged as before? That it’s not even a singularity at all, but a plurality?
It sort of stands to reason. If you look at how exciting scenes evolved before – before internet ubiquity that is - basically a small cluster of pioneers would break off from large established scenes and differentiate themselves. This would usually involve a degree of shunning from their parent scene, a loss of some or all of their accompanying audience and hence relative isolation. In the pre-internet era – which for the UK is some point between 2000-2003 depending on if you count dial up in this – older critics are always at pains to point out how hard it was to access subcultures you were not already in or geographically co-located with. This meant that small scenes could had longer to incubate and hence to develop new ideas.
Now in a mass market broadband and smart phone era, ideas propagate very quickly, differences even out. There’s very little incubation time, little isolation if you’re onto something. In fact the only way to hide it seems in 2010/11, is to bury yourself into the dark matter of bigger scenes, as the early UK funky DJs or road rap acts did. Yes you could have found proto-UK funky DJ in 2004 but given they were mostly playing US house, they’d have been indistinguishable against the darkness of the vast house galaxy. So if new ideas propagate quickly and differences are evened out, what you get is instead of one dense pocket of invention, the singular “wow” moment people have seen before, you get a broad, delocalised field of inter-exchange of ideas, meta-scenius if you like. And only when you view it as a whole do you see its total merits.
Now I’m not saying, even in a nuum context, that we won’t ever see a new seismic shift, the “wot do u call it?” wow moment again – in fact I certainly hope we will – but I do think it’s quite possible that as the cost and friction of propagating ideas tends to zero, that we’ll see new structures to the landscape of how new music evolves around us.
This isn’t a prediction by the way, it’s an analysis of the here and now. I look at records like Trim “Confidence Boost (Harmonimix)” (aka James Blake), Addison Groove "Footcrab", True Tiger & P Money “Slang Like This,” Spooky “Spartan,” SX v Ramadanman “Woo Glut,” Bass Boy & Marcus Nasty Ft Marcus Nasty “Shitta,”Jam City "Ecstasy refix", Darkstar "Two Chords", Actress “Splazsh,” Salem “King Night,” Mount Kimbie “Crooks + Lovers” and countless others and think how can you not see both the collective quality and the interconnectivity here?
Just consider this sequence of tracks in a loop:
• Darkstar "Two Chords" [synthy, almost devil mix-y, post dubstep pop]
• Trim “Confidence Boost (Harmonimix)” (aka James Blake) [post-dubstepper remixes grime don]
• Spooky “Spartan” [grime banger]
• True Tiger & P Money “Slang Like This” [dubstep-influenced grime banger]
• SX v Ramadanman “Woo Glut,” [synthy grime x dubstep mashup]
• Darkstar "Two Chords" [return to start to find synthy, almost devil mix-y, post dubstep pop]
Lisa says “The next mutation ... probably won't come from this quarter.”
Really? I think it already did.