What does it mean when the figurehead for the largest new musical movement in the world right now starts making post-brostep?
By now you’ve probably heard the hoo-ha surrounding Skrillex’s newest track, Leaving. If you haven’t, here’s the basis of it: Skrillex, the American King of Dubstep (or should we say King of American Dubstep?), released a new EP with a track called Leaving on it that features a pitch-shifted single-word refrain of “leaving” repeated against a rainy nights backdrop that recalls, most immediately, the music of Burial.
Skrillex – Leaving
Skrillex is a hate figure to many for what he did to the original sounds of dubstep, and so a cynic might see Leaving to be him looking for the next sacred cow to slaughter. Leaving isn’t really any good, but it’s also nothing to get upset about. It’s riddled with all of the most predictable cliches of “bass music”, “future garage”, “post-dubstep” and any other genre tag that covers this sort of sound – a diced, pitch-shifted vocal, long pauses for silence, longing piano chords, and the use of mood and atmosphere in place of emotion are all present and accounted for; even the artwork, a high contrast black and white photograph of a seemingly endless tunnel, is a tired and familiar image. It’s Burial with none of the soul, Pinch without the intricacies of sound design, Hyph Mngo made with a Vengeance sample pack.
But there’s plenty of bad, imitative music out there, usually uploaded to Soundcloud by young producers to little fanfare, and it’s easy to ignore. Somebody as ubiquitous as Skrillex is a bit harder to turn a deaf ear to, and so his decision to release a post-brostep track raises some interesting questions. Most pressing is: why? Skrillex is aware of the roots of the music he makes and has tastes that stretch beyond the scene that he’s involved in, but he does his own thing. His aggro-metal take on dubstep, as hard as it is to stomach for many, is at least his – the logical conclusion to the wobblers popularised by producers like Caspa and Doctor P – whereas Leaving is a turnaround in style that lacks any of his own touches. It bears comparison to Mt. Eden’s remix of Burial’s Archangel, which seemed to be one of the greatest exercises in missing the point – it’s possible to enjoy these deeper, more introverted sounds, but that doesn’t mean you have an obligation to make it yourself.
Burial – Archangel (Mt. Eden remix)
Does this represent a turning point in mainstream American electronic music? What does it mean for Skrillex, a figurehead for the largest new musical movement in the world right now, to be venturing into territory not usually associated with the EDM continuum? For all the flak that EDM receives, few people are asking what comes next. Earlier today, Dummy’s Ruth Saxelby noted how Wih’lo, a 19 year old producer from Chicago, was part of a “growing undercurrent of new US producers who have clearly been influenced by the UK electronic music scene”.
This isn’t to say that EDM will morph into an Americanised take on UK bass music in the future – the big discussion right now seems to be about the steady adoption of trap – but it perhaps shows a desire outside of the underground to experiment more and move forward, which is something that many cynics seem to largely be ignoring. In a recent interview with Mixmag, Machinedrum described how dancefloors are becoming less infatuated with brostep and more receptive to experimental music. “I feel like people have already changed their attitude, they’re looking for new sounds…I’m not going to give up on America just yet.”
Alternatively, we could just agree with Zomby.
Skrillex is a joke ..literally— ZOMBY ® (@ZombyMusic) January 3, 2013
Brostep worst sound ever invented its candy raver shite now u wanna move to the land of credible artists. Good luck ur a joke— ZOMBY ® (@ZombyMusic) January 3, 2013
I don’t care how many youtube plays or rammed concerts of teenagers its shit like primarks shit but its always rammed full of people— ZOMBY ® (@ZombyMusic) January 3, 2013
Now dont ever mention burial and skrillex in same sentence again— ZOMBY ® (@ZombyMusic) January 3, 2013