Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Battle of the BPM’s

The tempo’s shifting again on the underground and it’s making for some interesting listening, music is being made that seems to fit in with so many different genres and styles what with funky, wonky and dubstep all playing off each other. Eclectic DJ’s have been around ever since the medium started of course but right here, right now the music is really forcing people to break out of genre and tempo restraints. Different styles and tempos are being pulled out of DJ’s bags more than ever and especially on the underground bass scene.

The rise of off-kilter hip-hop with smeared bent synths aka wonky, if we’re still aloud to call it that… last year, pushed by the likes of Flying Lotus and the Low End Theory crew really set things in motion and you could really hear this strain of lop-sided sounds pushing into different tempos and styles as people like Zomby and Joker brought similar aesthetics to the dubstep 140.

Around the same time funky was really grabbing peoples attention, the incredibly danceable strain of funky house with soca influenced drum patterns and a grimey bass riddled under belly that still manages to keep its feminine soul and energy was taking over the underground. These danceable rhythms really caught the attention of forward thinking DJ’s and producers in dubstep circles once again, with Hyperdub’s Kode 9 (also instrumental in the rise of wonk) pushing the sound.

All of this is kind of old news to people in the know but right now it really does seem to be taking root and making for brilliant music from producers and diverse sets from DJ’s, with people from all across the board bringing their own interpretations to the table.

It’s interesting to look at the roll of the DJ in this equation as well as the producer. The DJ has always had a big influence in dance music by chopping and blending sounds together in their own way to create whole new aesthetics that can sometimes end up pushing new genres into focus. The wonky, funky, dubstep axis of underground sounds are really good examples of this.

Funky really came to attention when DJ’s Markus Nasty, Mak10 and Spyro started to bring together grime and the soca infused house in some epic sessions on Rinse FM. But before you knew it Kode 9 was opening sets with it and talking about it on wfmu radio. This really set the seed in the dubstep scene and ever since funky tracks have been creeping into peoples sets, from the techno influenced crowd like Martyn and the Hessle Audio / Ruffiage Session crew Ramadanman and Ben UFO on Sub fm, all the way to 2-step grime dubstep extraordinaire Oneman who really does it in fine style. Also the connected pose of Geiom, Brakles and Shortstuff are really making moves in the genre spanning funky infused dubstep sets too and exploring the soulful side of things. So many people are at it.

The wonky DJ is a whole new kettle of ball games compared to the funky meets grime meets garage meets dubstep as it’s more disjointed, less rolling and the tempo range really is wide going from slow-mo hip-hop at around 70bpm all the way up to dubstep and beyond. This is where the sound system style selecta’s of dubstep can shine with a cut’n’paste and quick blend. Flying Lotus somehow crosses the boundary of live show as a producer and DJ set all at once, while touching on everything from ambient passages, hip-hop and dubstep. LA’s Gaslamp Killer and Rinse FM’s Alexander Nut really know how to chop at the drop of a hat and blend up a massively eclectic set of wonk. Not to mention Kode 9, at it again dropping hip-hop joints alongside the faster Joker and Zomby productions. Again even the Ruffiage Sessions’s guys and Martyn have been known to have a go.

All these DJ’s and more really do seem to be pushing the sounds forward and along with the producers blurring the lines between all these styles and tempos. Mixing up such diverse bpm’s is a tough thing to do, the selection and skill involved to make a smooth flowing mix that can go from about 70 to 140bpm and back really is one to admire. It goes to show that there is more to DJing than joining the dot between one constant tempo, it’s all in the vibe as apposed to the speed at the end of the day. The tempo’s of all the genres may well start to level out again as they have in the past for the likes of D’n’B at 170 or dubstep’s 140, but it may well just push more and more people to embrace the variety and throw in music from anywhere just like the producers and DJ’s in this piece are doing so well.

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