Consider this a companion piece to the side project one we ran a few weeks ago. While we had previously examined the phenomenon of musicians genre hopping to escape the “drudgery” of their day “job” (see what I did there?) we’re going to switch focus a little bit in this week’s edition of The Beat Generation. Many DJs and producers are solo acts. Not that they create in a vaccuum: electronic music and especially dance music possess a special character about them”with rave and festival attendance so large, there is an undeniable communal atmosphere. Then again, who hasn’t felt lost or alone in a crowded room? Woo, got a little bit emo there for a second. The point we were trying to make was that while electronic music celebrates the achievement of the individual it also possess a unique spirit of cohesion and collaboration. Here’s a look at some of our favorite electronic collaborations of the past few years.
Swedish House Mafia
Not really sure what the ground rules for supergroups in electronic music are. This probably benefits Sewdish House Mafia because if there ever was a true dance supergroup, these guys would be it. Their pedigree speaks for itself. What other group counts all of their members as within the Top 20 of DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs in 2010? If that wasn’t enough to make 2010 a big year for the trio of Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello, they also had won Progressive House Song of the Year on Beatport for their big crossover hit “One” which you can check out the video for below.
We keep talking about Benga and Skream in The Beat Generation and there’s a reason for that. I’ll make it clear: if you’re enjoying or have ever enjoyed listening to dubstep at any point in your life, you have these guys to thank for that. Benga and Skream have collaborated together in the past, and with the addition of fellow producer Artwork they formed the group Magnetic Man. The results of this coalition of the dubby is probably a lot more approachable then many might have expected. The material tends be less claustrophobic and more blissed out and anthemic (literately, they have a song called “Anthemic”). Case in point: single “Perfect Strangers” features the typical sub bass of a UK dubstep production. However, it’s swallowed up by the drum break and the swirling pop vocals from rising UK singer Katy B. You can check out the video for the track below.
Fred Falke and Alan Braxe
We’re including these guys in here for historical importance. Not to say that Falke and Braxe would ever amount to anything as paltry as footnote. Falke and Braxe, along with Mr. Ozio, Daft Punk and Busy P, laid the foundations for the growth and popularity of the music we term today as electro house. Falke has been prolific on his own in recent years, churning out oodles of remixes for artists like Kele, Robyn, Ke$ha, U2, Marina and the Diamonds and La Roux, to name a few. However, there’s something about the chemistry between the two producers that can’t be matched. “Rubicon” might be their most enduring contribution; a parisian synth workout which builds upon itself until culminating in an absolutely dirty guitar solo. Dance music would do well to have more guitar solos.
You’d think that once a genre breaks into the mainstream, you’d be able to listen to it and tell someone what it is. I mean, what other genre could get coverage in a major online publication that admits that it doesn’t even know what the genre is in the title of the article? Dubstep has been growing in popularity for the past decade but has really come into its own, in the past three years. Most people in college will probably recognize dubstep as that REALLY LOUD bass-heavy dance music they’ve heard at some frat or house party or club venue. Also known as “wobbles”, this music is made to make you nod your head. But that’s not all there is to dubstep, although you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
The roots of dubstep can be traced back to UK Grime rap and 2-Step, growing out of the darker elements of drum and bass music in London. The earliest song to be released with many of the characteristics of the sound would be “Charly”. The sound of early dubstep reflects its urban origins; dark, claustrophobic and nervous created via very heavy subbass. The genre even had something of a home base in its early days. Big Apple Records, based in Croydon, South London, was a record shop specializing in jungle, techno and drum and bass releases throughout the 90s. It began to become the heart of the scene with Dubstep musicians Skream and Benga both working in the shop by day and DJing by night. At least one journalist also conjectured that dubstep had a parallel relationship with rising Ketamine use in the UK. Woah man, drugs and music? Slow down, you almost lost me.
Around 2002 and 2003, the term dubstep began to be thrown around to describe this new dance music. With the name came a jump from local scene to regional flavor and then quickly to national prominence. Much has been made as to how quickly dubstep has come to prominence. Probably doesn’t hurt that the music started out in one of the biggest and most international cities in the world.
Skream is a name that keeps coming up time and again through the growth of the genre. The release of his self-titled Skream! in 2006 with the unexpected UK hit “Midnight Request Line” proved to have a great deal of crossover appeal.
House producer Deadmau5 also debuted his first release in 2006. While not a true dubstep adherent, singles like “Strobe”, “Ghosts N Stuff ” and “Faxing Berlin” would prove popular to listeners on both sides of the Atlantic and introduced Americans to music like dubstep. Some wobbles here and there but very melodic and very digestable. Side note: Deadmau5 has started releasing little dubstep experiments on his Soundcloud page and through his Facebook as well. We’ve posted one below for your immediate listening pleasure.
The 2007 release of Burial’s Untrue, maybe the single most important release for dubstep up to that point if for no other reason than the reviews it received when it came out. Getting positive write-ups almost everywhere, it has since appeared in the Top 10 releases of the decade lists in FACT Magazine, Stylus Magazine and, most notably, placed Number 3 on Resident Advisor’s Top 100 albums of the decade. This brought to dubstep something is was sorely lacking prior; critical acclaim. No longer just the music of club kids and the tastemakers, Untrue proved that not only did dubstep have a dark, gritty, urban soul, but it could also have a brain.
Currently dubstep is bigger than ever. Rusko might have collaborated with Britney Spears on her latest album (“Hold It Against Me” definitely has a bass drop around the 2:40 mark), all around hip guy Diplo released a dubstep collection late last year and the Internet is polluted with a dubstep remix of every song ever made. The genre is not just an internet/pop culture phenomenon, however. For all the critical support as of late, perhaps the highest profile champions were the late legendary BBC Radio1 DJ John Peel and fellow BBC Radio DJ Mary Anne Hobbs. So outside of the basic characteristics of sound, dubstep has had one other stylistic attribute since it has come into greater prominence: it is a genre which exists nearly equally in both the mainstream and in the underground. For a form of music with such a large, young and dedicated following, with write-ups in major publications for years it was, at least until this moment, out of step with the greater continuum of mainstream music and culture in the US. It’s just too dirty for most people. Which, of course, is part of the appeal.