June 27, 2012

Son Raw may break his no blunts before breakfast rule. Rough morning.

What makes a musical genre? The typical answer would be a common set of musical signifiers and in a commercial sense, that description works quite well. If you’re selling a product, it helps if the customer gets what’s written on the tin. In the case of Dubstep however, I’m not so sure: you can get all of the individual components right but if the vibe isn’t there, it’s all for naught. During the movement’s crucial early days, it wasn’t even considered a genre proper, rather it was music made by a certain group of individuals around a certain club night, each offering their variations on a set of musical principles. The further removed we get from that community, that club and those principles, the further we get from the musical alchemy that created the vibe in the first place.

Swing Ting aren’t from London and they’re a fair bit removed from Dubstep’s salad days but the vibe and alchemy are there. They run a proper club night (in Manchester, a city that’s as due for a musical moment as any) and the combination of swing, darkness, cess and Jamaican patois in Head Gone strikes just the right balance of dread and dance-appeal. The later is crucial: rather than plodding dungeon traditionalism, this is high energy music drawing from Northern England’s long tradition of uptempo music but tempered with a heavy dose of darkness and THC. In short, they bring a much-needed infusion of Jamaican DNA (pause) to a style of music that’s become insufferably pasty. Their latest live mix from their June launch party is appropriately eclectic kicking off in true dancehall style before moving through Grime, broken House, Bassline Garage and a number of other tunes from orphaned half-scenes.

Which brings us back to genre. Whereas the term Dubstep once acted as a unifying factor for a set of music principles, it currently exerts the inverse effect. Think of the number of former Dubstep producers recoiling not only from the word but seemingly from the ideas associated with the term – darkness, swung beats, Jamaican samples, etc. Meanwhile the new jacks who never properly understood how those elements work progressively replaced them with trance synths, electro-squawks and other mainstream arena rave tropes. But those original ideas and signifiers didn’t disappear – they just dispersed and began to pop up in various tunes by various outsiders, waiting to be brought back as a coherent whole. Far be it from to place the burden on Swing Ting or Manchester or anyone really, but if you want to find that musical energy you could look in worse places than 12′ singles and underground parties by DJs who’re just making the music they want to hear.


1. Leftside – Booty Clap
2. Konshens – Mad Mi
3. Keep Left Records – Bong Diggy Bang Version
4. Mella Dee – Gassed
5. Falty DL – Hardcourage
6. Major Notes ft. Troublesome – Jump Up
7. Notion – Digits
8. RDX – Jump
9. Murlo – At The Knees VIP
10. T.Williams – Zoop
11. Ballistiq Beats ft. Jamakabi – Concrete Jungle (Beneath’s 350 Remix)
12. X5Dubs ft. Slick Don – Who are you doh (I ain’t scared)
13. Mista Men – Lambrini
14. Preditah – Overdose
15. Swing Ting ft. Fox – Head Gone (Chimpo Remix)
16. Martyn – Twenty Four

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