Does dubstep suck?

BY Robert Lamb / POSTED February 29, 2012

So HowStuffWorks has a new article titled “How Dubstep Works,” which summoned a number of likes on the HowStuffWorks Facebook page, but also some much-expected dubstep hatred in the comments section. That’s sort of how it goes with dubstep, an electronic dance music subgenre celebrated and maligned with equal fervor.

For my own part, I can see both sides. Yes, there is a great deal of wretched dubstep out there — and I mean “wretched” in the authentic sense, not in the sense that disgusting = awesome when you’re MCing a drum and bass gig.  It’s a big, popular music genre and it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of it sucks. There’s even evangelical Christian dubstep now, if you’re so inclined.

I’m not here to talk anyone into digging a style of music that doesn’t speak to them, but I would like to mention some dubstep that – -at least to these ears — defies expectations. In part, ANY talented artist tends to break free of genre and find his or her own way, so I think it’s to be expected. So here are some fast and free examples from the old iTunes folder. And be sure to check out my post Space Music: Scientist, Dub and Dubstep, which explores the links between (awesome) Jamaican dub and all that annoying wah-wah in the clubs.

First up, the UK’s Distance typifies the sort of dubstep I tend to gravitate to. He was one of several artists featured on Mary Anne Hobbs‘ BBC Radio1 show a few years back and he continues to create the sort of sonic landscapes that sound about as un-wah-wah as dubstep gets. Here’s one off his 2008 album “Repercussions,” which I keep coming back to for its dark, brooding atmosphere:

Distance: No Sunshine
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Grime/dubstep artist Abel Mortis also creates music in this vein — very ethereal really. Check out the track “Nightwalk (Prowl),” off the “Parallel Horizons” EP. I can’t embed the track, but here’s a link to a sample of it in the JunoPlayer from Juno Download. He frequently collaborates with Spectral Cat, who created this wonderful track off the same EP:

Spectral Cat: Mechanese Odyssey
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And yeah, I find myself enjoying tracks by the likes of Skrillex, Skream and Run DMT (whose name I first made fun of at SXSW last year) as well.

As for the best of what passes for “true dubstep,” I’ll leave that to the professionals. Solid Steel’s DJ Irk (who I interviewed here) has his fingers in a number of musical pies, but frequently drops dubstep into the mix — especially in this mix featured on both the Solid Steel Radio Show and  Montreal’s bassmusic podcast J’aime Le Dubstep. But here’s one without redonkulous curse words in the intro:

DJ Irk: Unbelievable Krimewave
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So there you have it! You can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don’t forget the free HowStuffWorks App!

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