Let me preface this post by saying two things.
First, I love music. I have preferred genres and artists, sure. Everybody does. But I have found very little music I can’t listen to, and am not willing to explore. I have listened to everything from Air Supply to Zebrahead. I love the melodic expression of emotion whether that’s uplifting love, stomping heartbreak, vitriolic anger, or melancholy sadness.
Second, I have been a big fan of what I call “electronic noise” for a very long time. When we were kids, my friend Travis turned me on to a band called Negativland. They can best be described as ‘experimental artistic noise with samples’. That was followed by recommendation from my friends Tobi (who introduced me to Skinny Puppy) and Mandy (who brought me bands like Laibach, Borghesia, and Pigface). I spent a good deal of time with grunge and techno, but ventured well beneath the mainstream surface of Fat Boy Slim, Moby and Darude, and really dug into stuff primarily identified by the people around me saying, “Oh my god, what is that noise you’re listening to.” Thus my own category of electronic noise was born.
Over the lat few years, the time and money constraints of kids have dramatically reduced the amount of free cash I dump into music. Spotify, however, has been fantastic as a tool of music discovery. Recently I have really jumped into dubstep in a big way. Over the last couple of months, I have listened to hundreds of tracks from dozens and dozens of artists. I jumped into dubstep after reading an article that described the genre as one older listeners don’t get. The music was characterized as sample of random noise laid over driving bas rhythms and electronic loops.
You had me at random noise.
I had to dive in. How could I not? That same description was used for most of my favorite music since I was about 16. If this was the latest expression of melodic electronic noise, I had to see what the fuss was all about.
It’s at this point in the post I could start sounding like the curmudgeon. My internal grumpy old man could pop out and say “This is a hopped-up perversion of my beloved techno but with more static samples laid on top.”
I’m not going to do that. Instead, I am going to go the opposite direction.
Dubstep, for the most part, is terribly, terribly boring. The vast majority of my listening has been defined by lilting vocals, beats per minute that would make heart surgeons think the patient had flatlined, and less noise than simple cheesy sound effects (enough with the sirens, guys). Most of the best dubstep I have found (and there is some REALLY good music if you can stand to dig it out) mixes old school techno with dubstep’s signature WUB-WUB-WUB to produce a MUCH faster, MUCH better dubstep experience. When you get the BPM cranked up to a nice respectable level (my favorite stuff tends to be in the 140-160 range) you really start to get a good flow.
While a lot of dubstep flirst with 130-140 BPM, it rarely sustains that level of activity for more than a few seconds. If a club DJ was spinning straight dub tracks, you’d quickly realize that alcohol really is a sedative, not a stimulant. I’ve begun to think the market for Red Bull, Four Loco, and energy drinks generally is simply a result of people trying to stay awake while listening to dubstep. If I were a sleep therapist I would prescribe dubstep to people who don’t respond to medication.
Allowing my internal grumpy old man to roll out, I can sum up my reaction to dubstep by saying “You call that artistic, aggressive noise? Back in my day we had REALLY artistic, aggressive noise. We had bass so deep it broke the Earth in Arizona and created the Grand Canyon. We had beats so fast they made the world spin, and it still hasn’t stopped.”
Dubstep does have some really great tracks if you put on your headlamp, grab a pickaxe, and start digging for them. My personal favorite is this mix from Swedish House Mafia and Knife Party (http://open.spotify.com/track/5GQQ5pCrE9POxtxGG1inxq if you’re on Facebook). It has a dull lull in the middle where the vocals drop in, but overall it sustains a good BPM throughout and carries an upbeat vibe that’s fun to listen to. Bumpy Ride by Omnitica is also a fun track.