Thursday, June 12, 2008
So Dusk and I were up on Rinse the other month and clocked a flyer that said “say no to wonky.” I tried to follow it up but big up Mel for beating me to it. Gwann girl!
It was in May I wrote about the outbreak of unstable synths both reclaiming the mid-range from the deadout heavy metal wobble massive in dubstep and ripping through other scenes too. I described the flavour as "wonky" because it, well, seemed to fit. Simon then noticed there were several other wonkys, the rest of which I’d not heard of.
(As a quicky wonky update, the Brainfeeder night is this Sat with an insanely wonky line up: Flying Lotus, Rustie, Hudson Mo, Kode9, Mala and more. I'm deya!)
But the flyer at Rinse belonged a funky event Circle, so it’s unlikely they’d be talking about the same “wonky” as me. What made it even more confusing is that Mel thought it looks like their “say no to wonky” flyer graphically indir-ed the Hudson Mo logo, someone I’d named in my Pitchfork piece.
Turns out there some kind of urban meme collision going on.
Shout to Mel for getting to the bottom of it, with a quick Q&A from Tippa of Circle events.
“Our take on the term ‘Wonky’ is that for us,” says Tippa from Circle, “in terms of house it means poorly produced UK house or funky should I say as this is what all the kids are calling it.”
“Now I’m not saying that all UK house is shit, cause that’s not the case…. Phil Asher, W Beeza, Coopr8, Freerange, Perempay & Dee, Geeneus, Fanatix, Sy Sez & Gavin Peters (Aphrodisiacx), Guy Robin etc… there are loads of acts and producers doing what house is about and producing quality stuff that can rival the us.”
“But we feel the other side of the production which is produced poorly, sounds like a spin off from UK grime and kids using the same loops, same beats, same tribal sounds… And we feel as some of the well known DJs that if we as a whole don’t speak out and try to educate the new producers coming through on how house is supposed to be made and sound, what its meaning and background is, then who will?”
Crikey, as Ben UFO points on the Dubstep forum, it’s like the circa 2000 garage wars all over again.
Back in 2000 as UKG became popular, there was an influx of youngers keen to gain status in a community that had essentially been founded around “the Sunday scene,” one originally run for older, smartly dressed ravers. When the genre got jumped it created a series of dynamic tensions that resulted in an amazing tempo plateau where Zinc’s breaky “138 Trek” sat with Todd Edwards’ vocal chopped US garage. DJ Narrow’s hard 4x4 would ride with r&b influenced 2step. El-B’s dark swing got mixed into Slimzee and Geeneus’ proto grime of riddims like Musical Mob’s “Pulse X.”
Perhaps inevitably, the tensions on the plateau could only be contained for a while: young and old, raw and well produced, feminine and masculine, DJ-focused and MC-based, dark and light, hectic and mellow, road and mature could all sit together only for so long. Check the Guardian piece where the Dreem Teem interview So Solid on Radio 1 and the tensions surface…
"Any tip for ageing rockers like ourselves?" Spoony asked them sarcastically. "How can we stay out there?"
"Give the youth of nowadays a chance to bust through that barrier - 'cause you lot have been there for so long and it's our time now," retorted Romeo.
"Are you saying we must step over?"
"A little sidestep," Romeo suggested. Mega Man added: "Look for new talent that can carry your name when you lot are too tired to DJ."”
Whether Circle feel the same way as Dreem Teem did then or not, there definitely seems to be parallels. As it’s hype grows, funky’s getting jumped by a lot of grime producers and it’s clear the some funky headz aren’t keen. As Geeneus put it in a comment on my blog “let grime be grime and funky be funky!”
If you ignore production values (one man’s lack of production values is another’s aesthetic, ain’t that right Bok Bok?), the elephant in the room is the aggression of grime. Circle events are tightly regulated: I tried to get on the mailing list about six months ago but balked at the prospect of having to give information like my mobile number and home address to someone on the end of an email. Yet given urban London, I can understand their interest in keeping the “Circle” tight.
It’s going to be interesting to see how funky develops. On one had you have the sense of déjà vu that being familiar with the London nuum cycles brings, that with the influx will come darkness and an emphasis on MCs agin. On the other you have the assertions that Supa D comments suggest, that these are separate things (grime and funky) and the implication that the funky scene wont let history repeat itself.
Speaking of history, the Guardian article references a photoshoot I was actually at, co-ordinated by The Face, who’s staff at that time included Emma Warren, now of “Steppas Delight” [Soul Jazz] fame.
I was an intern back in 2000, and the shoot was held over two days, so I wasn’t there, in Croydon, when “[Norris ‘Da Boss’] Windross … refused to have his photograph taken with Dee Kline for the Face magazine.” Instead I was there for the first day, that featured El-B, Zed Bias and Jay Da Flex. It would be my introduction to what would, six or so years later, blow us as dubstep. It seems like things have all come full … “Circle.” Meme collision alert number two!