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Sonic Router 001 - A Dubstep Column For April
The Quietus , April 1st, 2009 09:17

Oli Marlow casts his eye over the current dubstep platters in the first of a monthly round up, which includes a mix by Untold

Subtlety is something a lot of newcomers might not expect when they dip their toes into the torrent of productions that make up the spectrum of dubstep music. The over-propelled, mid range-conscious EQing of some of the scene's best known luminaries tends to hide a lot of the movement's depth; as a result, many casual listeners don’t really get to explore some of the laconic delights that roll over beyond the outskirts of dubstep. With an ever-increasing multitude of producers crossing divides into techno, garage and off-kilter hip hop, there’s an abundance of music that isn’t necessarily dark or restricted by the confines of a set tempo and - perhaps more importantly - doesn’t use offensive, lip-curling basslines as its main source of propulsion.

A great place to start an exploration of the current experimentation would be with the forthcoming compilation from Pinch’s Tectonic Recordings. Tectonic Plates is the second 2CD compilation to come from the Bristol based label and with a tracklisting that harbours beats from 2562, Martyn, Flying Lotus, Skream, Benga and Joker – who’s just unleashed plans for his 3rd 12" featuring the tracks ‘Do It’ and ‘Psychedelic Runway’ on his own label Kapsize - it serves as a pretty complete overview of the bustling styles and directions bass music is taking in this first quarter of 2009.

The latest release from Nottingham-based producer Spam Chop’s Wigflex label also epitomizes the point being chipped at in the opening paragraph. Featuring tracks from Geiom, Metaphi, The Hizatron and Taylor, and with the focus seeming to land squarely on the fusion of all styles, it comes as a refreshing change to hear these producers squeezing themselves into every crevice of music. They're creating productions that work over different sets, combining all manner of glitches and Detroit house synth lines into music that spurs erratic movement in the rave rather than the grog-plod-head-nod that’s infected many a dance. Their approach to everything, from music to the artwork to the merchandise, is nothing short of astoundingly professional and Spam Chop’s baby is proving to be one to follow for sure.*

Certain producers are appearing as key figures to watch; with their styles and approaches becoming the benchmark in texture or the new trend to vibe from. Kode 9 is maintaining his spot in the limelight with his latest batch of solo releases, ‘Black Sun’ and ‘2 Far Gone’ showcasing a stylistic and rhythmic change from his previous output. And his ability to think two steps ahead of his peers is more than evident. His label Hyperdub also seems to be a torch for other labels to follow, with their release schedule for the coming year holding five artist albums from people like Darkstar and Ikonika alongside numerous 12"s and a 5 year anniversary double CD/vinyl package.

Ramadanman known to the tax man as David Kennedy is also a cat making incredible moves for someone so young. His enthusiasm and work rate is infectious. Not content with running one of the most highly watched labels, Hessle Audio (alongside Ben UFO and Pangaea) he has a track called ‘Humber’ destined for Appleblim’s label Applepips; alongside releases on Reading based 2nd Drop Records, the first vinyl single to be released by fabric Records and a remix of French artist F’s ‘Epilogue’ on 7even Recordings. His style is unpredictable; although his concentration on percussion has carved itself a recognisable niche, he and his work flips from quasi-predictable 2-step-flecked dubstep to borderline funky house with the kind of knowing grin you only get when a producer is enjoying his studio time as much as Kennedy clearly is:

“I have always made music at different tempos so I’m kinda just making what I enjoy really. I listen to drum and bass, a lot of house, dubstep and hip hop - so that’s what I enjoy making most. I think also, sometimes it can be nice to go against people’s expectations and not just do a ‘dubstep’ remix of a tune but try and do something altogether different..." – Ramadanman

Ramadanman – 'Blimey' [Hessle Audio]

Hemlock Recordings and label boss Untold is also displaying a penchant for doing something different, making music that is driven more by the percussive arrangement than bass weight. But unlike someone like Ramadanman who seems to thrive and vibe off everything and anything, Untold seems to be honing his tunes into a signature sound that draws on the guilest of sub basses and some super, hyper-skipping, intricately woven drum arrangements that draw on the drum patterns of garage, still managing to thump without the presence of a clearly discernable snare drum. He’s just had a couple of startlingly good bits out on Hotflush’s sub labels with hsi remix of Toasty’s ‘The Knowledge’ on a split 12" with Loefah and his own single ‘Dante’ b/w ‘Sweat’ is out in stores now.

Untold was kind enough to put us together a mix to showcase the ambience and the mottled dubstep, he digs which you can download here.

His label, Hemlock, is also on their third 12" release with 2 unknown producers from Manchester, Fantastic Mr Fox and Rich Reason, making a well timed introduction with their brand of synth pitching and swung drum patterns on ‘Plimsoul’ before taking proceedings a little more swirly on the flip ‘Bleep Show’.

It’s also impossible to discuss the fruition of the outer reaches of dubstep without mentioning Martyn. The Dutch drum and bass producer moved to America and has undoubtedly produced the most anticipated album of 2009. Great Lengths is waiting in the wings for a late April release on his own label 3024. Propelling lush and rich melodies over an array of garage-centric drum patterns that clip jerkily, Martyn is marrying the impossibly high levels of production used in genres like drum and bass with the anything goes approach of dubstep to jaw dropping effect. His recent performances at FWD>> and fabric showed just how driving his new array of rhythms are and proved that his brand of music can absolutely slaughter soundsystems of all sizes and customisations.

Martyn – Great Lengths LP Preview

Most of the releases spoken about above are (or will be) available to purchase physically and digitally. Check your local record shops or online stores for details. More information of all these releases and more can be found at

  • Wigflex have been kind and generous enough to provide us with a T-shirt to give away in celebration of our first column on The Quietus. Take a peep at their wares here: Wigflex Shop and be the first to email with the answer to the following.

Q: Wigflex is run by who?

A: Geoim
B: Brackles
C: Spam Chop

Check The Sonic Router blog here.