Monday, 4 November 2013
On Sunday just gone, a mildly amusing list-style article entitled '10 Things People Say To Pretend They Know About Dance Music' was posted on the blog space of Mixmag's website by Bass Editor, Seb Wheeler. It is, for the most part, a fairly accurate run-through of gripes that might be levelled at, well, someone pretending to know about dance music, in fact the list might even be commended for its rebuttal of those claiming that "Deadmau5 can't actually mix" or that "Analogue always sounds better than digital". However where it falls down, and heavily so, is the point at which it is claimed 'that the UK has moved on from low-end frequencies somewhat' and that 'America has become the new home of bass.'
The problem here is firstly in the suggestion that, in a post-internet world, something as broad as bass music could be considered to have a home. Dubstep is probably the finest example of the way in which the internet has globalised music to a greater extent than ever before - it still astounds me to see the huge variety of countries checking in over on Hedmuk's Soundcloud page. That, though, is another conversation entirely.
The issue I really took with the piece, though, was the apparent ignorance of the UK bass music scene's current state of health, and the general terms in which it was stated. The assertion that the UK has moved beyond an interest in 'low-end frequencies' would suggest that anyone from Mungo's Hi-Fi to Iration Steppas to Unit 137 to Manchester's Dub Smugglers had decided to pack it all in and play out off a radio set. 'Low-end frequencies' is not a suitable replacement phrase for "what Youngsta plays on Rinse". Semantics aside, the UK's long-term obsession with everything low and bold is arguably seeing some of its finest days in years: dubstep pushes on, led by the inimitable likes of Karma, Thelem, Taiko, Wayfarer, Biome and Kaiju; grime as a whole is seeing a resurgence that had been bubbling away long before the recent war dubs spat stirred things up, Boofy's 'Since When' is hard as a brick is, and Asa & Sorrow are showing that grime needn't lack the production value of its Croydon cousin; UK funky, through Champion, Killjoy, Brunks and Beneath, is still laying a claim to club space; house music is the sound of the charts, let alone the underground; and that's before you even start talking about the breaks-driven experimentalism being peddled by Etch, Special Request and Tessela.
What's more, and as good a sign of the UK's continued progression as any, is that there are so many names that don't fit easily into any of the categories above but who are carving out their own lanes regardless, and taking an open-eared following with them. Wen, Circula, Troy Gunner, Sepia, Blackwax, Facta, Underclass and Akkord are just a handful of the many defying the journalists' pigeon-holes.
As with anything like this there will undoubtedly be people I've missed, but if anything that only serves to make the point more strongly: there are literally too many names to mention.
It may well be the case that what was really meant by the offending remark was that the US has seemingly moved beyond its excitement over face-melt mid-ranges and car crash snares, and that what remains is a crowd highly receptive to a more subtle sound - speaking with Innamind Recordings boss, Jeremy, he couldn't emphasise enough how inspiring it was to see people so passionate about the sound that he and others like him are currently pushing. The US is, for want of a better term, catching up and is doing so - as exemplified by the likes of the Reconstrvct crew mentioned in the article - in fine style, however it shouldn't require a misguided knock of the UK scene to express that.