The turn of the New Year marks ten years since the heyday of the UK dubstep scene. 2006 saw the genre push itself to new heights and for a while there it seemed invincible. Dubstep formed into a solidified movement that took over the underground dance scene, the popularity of the sound climbing higher than ever while still stylishly maintaining the grass root principles at its core that made it so appealing in the first place.
Over the next few years things began to change rapidly and before you knew it, it had become something completely different from what we had come to know and love. The sound had been warped and skewed out of control. The vibes were wrong. The love had gone. Many became disillusioned with the genre; its inevitable decline is still a sensitive topic for many, not to mention the classless adoption of the more questionable aspects of the sound by certain American producers. Even the use of the word ‘dubstep’ can leave a sour taste in the mouth because of the qualities that have become associated with it.
For many, dubstep is something that holds little interest for them today. Others might claim the sound is lying dead somewhere deep inside the stomach of the EDM machine. These people, however, are simply not looking hard enough. In reality, dubstep never really left, the music certainly never diminished – indeed, the last couple of years alone have seen some of the strongest releases since the genre’s inception.
In a time of widespread experimentation in dance music, what was once known as dubstep has shaken off its restrictive labels and fused itself with a range of equally expressive genres. Contemporary producers regularly prefer to experiment with dubstep elements rather than forcing themselves to make a strictly dubstep track. Modern releases are tinged with components of hip-hop, jazz, jungle, garage, and more, pushing the sound further while managing to uphold the basic formula of space and bass. However these tunes are made and whatever the intentions are, it is clear that there will always be a space for the dubstep sound amongst UK listeners.
Here are five tracks that prove that dubstep is alive and healthier than ever…
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Bigga Bush – 'Ilu Baje' (Geode Remix)
Geode and his Chord Mauraders label have been killing it over the last couple of years with their soulful, jazz soaked dub. The London based producer manages to capture the afro beats vibe of Bigga Bush’s production while adding the necessary depth to get your head swinging. The weighty sub and reverbing claps sit nicely alongside the live flute and guitar, creating one funky little number.
Epoch - 'Attraction Dub'
This is some pure baby making dub. Epoch came with the sexy vibes on this one, the tribal drums and angelic vocals leave you in a state of absolute bliss. Not to mention the hefty sub on the second drop. An original Netflix and chill anthem.
Gantz, Commodo & Kahn - 'AMK'
This list could not be completed without a Deep Medi released track and the collaborative project from these three powerhouses was surely the label’s highlight of 2015. Although a couple of the others might well have made this list, AMK proved to be the stand out tune from the ‘Volume I’ album. The snake charming flute melody comes out of nowhere and is almost too much to handle.
The individual influence of the three producers is very noticeable in the different components of the track; clearly they have strength in numbers. AMK sits perfectly on the line of being evil and groovy and you can only praise the trio for it.
Congi - 'Last Path'
‘Lost Path’ is another release via the Chord Marauders label, co-owned by Geode and Nottingham-based duo Congi. This record was one of many outstanding tracks off their debut and highly underrated album ‘Tidal Fragments’. The muffled brass and soft tribal drums infuse beautifully alongside the crunchy snares and warming bass line. The darker second half of the record has a really magical vibe, a real 6am kind of track.
LAS - 'Pirates'
LAS is a rarity in the scene. Hailing from Helsinki, he is not one to stray away from experimentation, delivering some of the most interesting sounds in dubstep over the last few years. Himself and Gantz make up the necessary weirdos of a genre like dubstep that keep the listeners constantly on their toes. You never quite know what you’re going to get from the Finn and he never disappoints. He is a man who truly respects sound system culture and every one of his bass driven releases are totally unique, making him one of the most exciting producers in the scene going into the New Year.
The sheer squelch levels on 2014's ‘Pirates’ are enough to lock off any rave. It’s a real bouncer that could get your granny moving even after her second hip replacement. Beat makers like LAS are pushing dubstep in the right direction and tracks like this show it’s not leaving any time soon.
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Words: Angus McKeon