Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
I’ve often thought that along with creating some of the best music ever made, the cleverest trick the original Detroit Techno pioneers pulled was to package their regional variation of house music with esoteric references to the likes of futurist author Alvin Toffler. Provide an under-stimulated journalist with a chance to write something other than ‘BIG ROOM BANGING CHOON’ and there’s every chance he’ll bite your hand off like a starving man.
Over the past few years dubstep’s pulled a similar number, with the likes of Kode 9 (PhD in philosophy) providing a handy critical theory peg for over educated hacks to hang their stories on. Search the internet and you’ll find a glut of blogs and articles ostensibly about bass heavy sounds that read more like freshly discovered chapters from ‘A Thousand Plateaus’.
Still whether you buy into any of it or not, even with the best journalistic hype the music has to ultimately stand up for itself. Which is why Derrick May is still regarded as a bit of a god round these parts and why, though I haven’t got round to reading ‘Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear’ yet, Memories of the Future gets heavy rotation on my stereo.
Beyond the ramblings of the press, as good a place as any to submerge yourself in the music the past few years has been Fabric and dubstep along with its more experimental offshoots have long been a staple of the Farringdon club’s Friday nights. Now following on from Caspa & Rusko’s Fabric Live mix is their latest compilation, ‘Elevator Music’, an attempt to coral the genres more leftfield offshoots onto one disc before the scene splinters asunder completely.
Right from the start it’s clear that anyone settling down with a can of Red Stripe and a spliff expecting the now familiar thunderously bass lines and half time drums of dubstep cliché will be disappointed. With barely a loping, skunk infused rhythm in sight ‘Elevator Music’ shows just how far and indeed how open the genre has become as the 15 tracks draw upon elements of 2-Step, Kwaito, Basic Channel-esque dub techno, even jacking Chicago house to wonderful effect.
Despite its eclectic influences it’s by no means an incoherent compilation though. Featuring standout tracks from the likes of Martyn, Starkey, Untold and Hot City there may be no monolithic pattern to the music but there’s certainly a shared aesthetic at play, one that provides a connection beyond a simple love of 140bpm tempos and Rinse FM.
Packed full of the kind of urgent, insistent Funky (and indeed funky) rhythms that have dominated pirate radio over the past twelve months, the producers featured on this compilation may be pushing the boundaries of their genre but importantly they haven’t forgotten that this is music created for the dancehall. And it is that rooting in clubland and the nation’s illicit airwaves that is such a part of its appeal.
Whether it’s Doc Daneeka’s Drums In The Deep with it’s Mantronix sirens and clattering drums, the stunning echoplexed techno of Vista’s Elixir, or Shortstuff’s Behave which could almost pass a track off Richard H Kirk’s sublime Virtual State album played at 45, this is music designed to impact on bodies and produce a kinetic response, yet with enough subtle shifts to keep the mind occupied too.
As dubstep continues to mutate and evolve, so that it encompasses everything from loutish pubstep wobble through to the rain streaked melancholia of Burial, it has marked itself out as adaptable and hardy as a virus, able to absorb the DNA of other genres whilst retaining a certain indefinable quality of its own. Whether that continues for much longer though remains to be seen as the gulf between its more populist and experimental elements widens, still it’s often in these fin-de-siècle times that the most exciting art and culture is created and it’s one such moment that Elevator Music Vol. 1 has captured.
Just one thing though. Can we please make sure the album’s title doesn’t actually catch on, I mean Elevator Music… Seriously?