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What the Dub? Dubstep Today (2012 - Now)

2012/2013 were an interesting couple of years for the scene. Last week we touched upon the successes of Skream and Benga at bringing dubstep to the global masses, so it makes sense to start with what was happening with them over the next couple of years. Both had started incorporating a larger variety of bpms and genres into their sets, which inevitably led to them being interviewed about these developments and what they had planned for the future. This ultimately culminated in music publications boldly announcing that the two originators had declared that dubstep was dead, which in turn caused an absolute shit-storm on social media; people saying dubstep had died years ago, people saying that dubstep could never die, people saying that dubstep was just a label and people saying that they never really liked it in the first place. In reality what had actually happened was that the two had decided that after a decade of flying the flag for the genre they had helped start they wanted a change of musical scenery and no longer wanted to be solely associated with dubstep. That’s fair enough really. The online shit storm carried on for a while as critics and journalists pecked at what they thought was dubstep’s corpse and people continued to get into arguments over twitter, Facebook and YouTube comments. What a lot of people failed to recognise was that dubstep was not dying or dead, it was simply beginning to diversify. Labels like Swamp81, Hessle Audio and Hotflush were playing with the dubstep aesthetic at slower bpms, originally coined as ‘post-dubstep’ but sonically very similar to techno and dubstep. Tempa and Osiris continued to experiment with a very stripped back minimal sound that was eventually labelled ‘dungeon’, which was almost the complete antithesis of the mainstream tearout stuff that was still being produced (although Osiris did start experimenting with 140bpm techno towards the end of 2013 and then just pure techno after Kryptic Minds split). Declaring a scene dead actually turned out to be quite benefit for the scene. Now that the majority of people with only a cursory interest in the genre considered it to be dead, an oversaturated sound was given some vital breathing space. New labels and nights began to appear, perhaps most notably Bristol based Bandulu records and Vivek’s SYSTEM. These two have been singled out for a reason. SYSTEM first started putting on nights in 2012 and harked back to the early days of dubstep dances. If you ever made it down to one of the early SYSTEMS at Tuffnell Park, then you’ll surely remember how dark it was in there. There was limited lighting, no lineups released and just a fat fucking system that provided ample bassweight. With no lineups released beforehand but still packing out a large venue SYSTEM proved that there was still a community of heads faithful to the sound willing to travel (in some cases) from quite far away to a night that they knew was going to deliver no matter who was playing. In a similar vein, Bandulu proved that there was a community who were into collecting and playing records. Whilst dubstep had always supported vinyl and most releases were pressed into the black crack, these had increasingly become accompanied by digital releases alongside them. Bandulu releases were (and still are) strictly vinyl only and sell out quicker than you can hit f5, showing that not only was the sound far from dead, people were willing to invest time and money supporting the scene. The last couple of years have shown the scene going from strength to strength. Interesting new producers, djs, labels and nights have been popping up across the globe, providing fresh variety into the wider sound. While the UK has an almost monopoly over consistent nights with heavyweight lineups, it by no means has a monopoly over the production of the sounds provided. There is a healthy global community pushing the scene forward to new heights. It’s impossible to list all the labels currently releasing music from different ends of the earth as there are just too many. Hell, there’s even a Mexican dude putting on nights in Loughborough of all places. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this history of dubstep series. While we’ve made our best effort to cram as much detail in as possible, we wanted to give a broad overview and there will inevitably be things we’ve missed out or overlooked so get involved in the comments if there’s anything you think we missed that deserves a mention! Next up, the history of grime! Juan Love x

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