Dubstep should not have to be my guilty pleasure. It is, as a genre, grossly misrepresented and misunderstood. I will go to great lengths to avoid using the term ‘dubstep’ as a descriptive when trying to coax most friends out to clubs and raves as I know it is very likely to put them off the idea.
And, irritatingly, although I would call myself a dubstep fan, I probably dislike the same elements of dubstep that deter most people altogether. There is a vest in my wardrobe, bearing the offending word in a run-DMC style print, which I made the mistake of wearing out one day. After being ridiculed by a fairly surprisingly large number of friends and strangers, I was far too embarrassed to ever wear it again.
I’m under the strong impression that what people generally associate with dubstep is actually a very distinctive and disproportionately popular sub-mutation of said genre, the Skrillex sound, characterised by screaming mid-range synths and distorted, brash vocal samples. This music is as close to heavy metal as an electronic ‘dance’ music subgenre can get; in fact, you can’t ‘dance’ to Skrillex. If this sound was all I had in mind when someone said the word ‘dubstep’ to me, I’d be the first person to sneer and ridicule a fan of the genre.
The reality is, however, that Skrillex and the sound that he, along with producers such as Datsik, Flux Pavillion and Borgore made so famous bares practically no resemblance whatsoever to the sounds that I appreciate and love in dubstep music. It’s thus unfortunate that this violent and wholly unpleasant sub-mutation of the genre has been the recipient of so much more recent commercial exposure than popularity than its other, far more rewarding, tangents.
Tracing dubstep back to the late noughties unearths the infinitely more pleasurable heart of the genre. Take as examples any tracks by artists such as Loefah, Mala, Burial or Plastician (formely Plasticman), to name a few choice producers. The sounds are moody, understated and subtle. They beg for the use of excellent speakers or headphones to appreciate the full sonic range. For me, little can beat the sinister yet wholly satisfying sub-bass of tracks like J:Kenzo’s Ruffhouse. Compare with a track like Skrillex’s Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, which has, for some unknown reason, reached over 129 million hits on youtube. What unfortunate taxonomy has ended up grouping together two such disparate tracks?
There is a lot more to dubstep than the sounds you hear backing TV adverts, or the skrillex-esque UKF compilations on sale at Asda. Give it a wider listen – there are a lot of pleasant surprises out there – in the hope that one day I can wear my dubstep vest with pride.