Prancehall’s Bass Odyssey, Part 6

February 28, 2008

I like to moan about dubstep. It's one of my favourite hobbies. I tell myself that, on the whole, I don't like it. I also really enjoy telling other people how much I don't like it. But dubstep producer Kode 9 is a pretty faultless figure. His productions are always interesting and his Hyperdub label is consistently groundbreaking. The newest release is no exception. It features a bassy percussion-led roller by Zomby called "Mu5h" and a Rustie remix of Zomby's "Spliff Dub" that sounds like it's been partly passed through a Super Nintendo. I've never been a pedantic record collector, but I feel compelled to buy everything on Hyperdub. It is one of the few labels that releases music solely on the merit of the material. The A-side of the forthcoming release—an understated shuffley vocoded 2-step masterpiece by Darkstar called "Need You"—is equally worthy of your attention. You may also be aware of the material released on Hyperdub by this other dude who one or two people seem to be quite into, called Burial.

Anyway, Kode 9 was playing at the FWD>> vs. Rinse event at The End last Friday so I decided to head along...

Zomby, "Mu5h"

If ever there was any question about dubstep being this decade's answer to drum and bass, this event removed all doubt. On my way into central London on the Tube it seemed that everyone under the age of 25 was going to the same club. So many people were talking about it. I even heard some of the kids in my carriage—when talking about Skepta (who was performing)—totally misquote (i.e. lie about) something I had said a few years ago in my old Grimewatch column.

Hearing reports of ridiculous queues when I reached the West End, I decided to go and hang out for a while with my friend Melissa and her cats who lived nearby. The cats (pictured above) are called Bill and Keith. Bill is the little one and she's a girl. "They are rave cats—they run around raving to Rinse every night," Melissa explained to me when I arrived. While I was there they did a lot of running. They also tried to eat some metal bottle tops. BTW, check out how many Freud books Melissa has in the picture. I think she has read, like, 15 of them. That is probably around the total number of books I have read in my entire life (I've never been much of a reader).

DJ Maximum, Wiley and Skepta

After almost forgetting why I had gone into town, I headed to The End around 11 PM to find a queue that didn't look too worrying. Within 15 minutes we were at the front of it. But after that, things didn't go so well. The doorman—an ear piece that had grown an annoying, gormless meathead—left us standing in the sobering cold at the front of the queue (with tickets in-hand) for two hours as the club continued to empty. Waiting impatiently behind us was balding dubstep pioneer Benny Ill in his unusual attire of tracksuit bottoms, smart shoes and a parka. Despite many efforts for someone inside to get him in, there was nothing he could do. JME (who was supposed to be performing) was even refused entry. Eventually, the bouncer remembered that the 200 people queuing outside the club were waiting to go inside and let a handful of us in just in time for the last twenty minutes of DJ Maximum's set with Wiley and Skepta in the main room. Maximum played lots of old grime stuff, which was fun. Next up was Youngsta. Watching him play what sounded like the same song for an hour with SP:MC on the mic doing a slowed-down version of what he does at drum and bass raves was depressing. It was like a glimpse into dubstep's near future.

DJ Oneman

Over in room 2, Oneman was playing a great mix of garage of dubstep. He was doing stuff like double-dropping "Decoy" by Agent X with "Left Leg Out" by Digital Mystikz.

DJ Kismet

Following him was DJ Kismet, whose funky / UK house selection totally cleared the dancefloor. Pretty much the only people left dancing were grime MCs Skepta, Jammer, Frisco and Geeneus. But I really liked it. If it keeps getting more garagey I could see myself getting heavily into it.

Kode 9 and Flow Dan

Oneman then played again—I guess the DJ who was booked to play couldn't get in—and I decided to give the main room a go again, where I found Kode 9 playing with Flow Dan. His set was filled with loads of weird, hypnotising 4/4 dubstep by people like 2562. It was much more minimal and abstract than some of the ridiculous 140 BPM clownstep being played in the main room earlier in the night, but the crowd seemed totally into it.

As the night was ending and I was heading for the exit, I saw a spotty, small-framed girl lifting up her top and trying to rub her tiny boobs against the chest of Coki (who acted as though he didn't even notice she was there). I guess with all the slowed-down d&b earlier in the night, this girl must have thought she was at a True Playaz night and Coki was DJ Hype.

If you want to hear what a grime MC sounds like over a Kode 9 set, check this old Rinse FM recording where Wiley showed up on Kode 9's show:

Download: Wiley and Kode 9 on Rinse FM

Prancehall’s Bass Odyssey, Part 6