Dubstep – that bone rattling, two-step groove synonymous with the UK’s bass-obsessed underground — is one of the most complex musical subcultures to emerge in the last decade. Since its early rumblings ten years ago, this gritty, wonky spin-off of drum ‘n bass/UK garage has stayed somewhat insulated within the confines of its birthplace, London. But by 2008, something unexpected had happened: dubstep had become an international phenomenon, filling not basements, but fields with bass-hungry youth craving its sonorous sound.
Now we’re witnessing a new wave of stateside dubstep. With domestic talent such as Starkey and FaltyDL honing reputations as dubstep innovators, American sound alchemists have taken up the torch to lead this low-end revolution onward. These fresh faces have boldly ventured beyond London’s regimented formula, shaved off a layer or two of its dark, heavy edge, and injected it with homegrown styles of New York garage, hip-hop, West Coast breaks, techno-soul, and instrumental reggae. New age dubstep? Deepstep? Call it what you will; we’ve rounded up eight American acts at the forefront of bass culture’s new wave. After the jump, sample the sounds of dubstep’s future.
1. Starkey Hailing from Philadelphia, this young producer serves soulful platters of melodic, downtempo dubstep that has UK stalwarts such as Mary Ann Hobbs nodding with approval. Following his impressive debut album, 2008’s Ephemeral Exhibits , comes Ear Drums and Black Holes , out this week. Floating on melodic synths and sweet vocals, the tracks on this album carry a crisp, blissful sound. Smooth and ethereal, this watered-down dubstep will perk up the ears of any electronic music junkie.
2. FaltyDL One of the biggest names on the cutting-edge electronic imprint Planet Mu, FaltyDL has concocted a unique breed of what we like to call “mutated house.” It’s the warmest, deepest, and most soulful dubstep we’ve come across. The spliced-up garage vocals and shimmering snare riffs that flit over luscious bass lines titillate our hungry, house-music hearts. If deep house and dubstep were to have a baby, they’d name it FaltyDL.
3. Badawi Badawi, a.k.a. Ras Mesinai, is a man light years ahead of his time. He is a sound architect by nature, constantly seeking ways to pave new paths for sounds not yet heard. His most recent project, The Index, is a new label created in collaboration with Dub War’s founder, Dave Q, and conceived as a platform to pursue experimental and abstract dubstep. His first release, February’s El Topo, strips the dubstep formula to its rawest elements, then layers it with spacey hints of dubtechno and minimal. Word is that Shackleton and Headhunter are on board to remix future productions. Check out an interview with Dave Q on the duo’s new collaboration.
4. Moldy The name’s Moldy, Selector Moldy. As a veteran of American dubstep, Moldy deserves a lot of credit for introducing US audiences to the dark, bass-heavy universe of dub this and dub that. As the initiator of Heavy Pressure Nights, this guy is no lightweight when it comes to busting out dub-wise beats aimed to drive crowds to the core of the dance floor. Think dirty dubstep heavily influenced by ghetto-booty hip hop (dub-hop?), jungle, and glitch. But don’t let that fool you – he’s got a soft side, too, with a sweet spot for downtempo melodies and airy vocals.
5. Jus Wan Wan some West Coast bass? Jus Wan gives us a taste of how Bay Ridge gets down, bass-style. This guy delivers some of the funkiest, grooviest dubstep out there. His productions, most notably “Azure,” tread along with the lightness of techno-soul and embrace the cosmic atmosphere of dubtechno. He’s also got a handful of breakbeat curve balls he’ll bust out every now and then to bend your hips.
6. Liondub Liondub is New York’s dubwise king and label boss of Liondub International, the innovative imprint aimed at forging new avenues of sound by experimenting with a platter of dancehall styles, from roots reggae and jungle to hip hop and dub-plate specials. Tracks like “The General” are bass-infused, heavyweight reggae dragged to the depths of dubstep with thick, instrumental rhythms and wonky drones. The latest release on his label is the Carib EP, featuring Toronto’s subsoca king of soundsystem culture, Marcus Visionary. This one’s for the dance floor.
7. Eskmo Step into the world of futuristic dubstep created by Frisco’s very own Eskmo, the innovator whose music seems to come from outerspace. Drawing influence from a West Coast culture obsessed with funky breaks and electro, Eskmo embraces the best of both worlds, making dubstep’s two-step action the backbone of his productions. And it gets more interesting track by track, as he splices things up with post-J Dilla funk, metallic burps, celestial echoes, and melodic keyboard solos. You’ve got to hear it to believe it.
8. DJG Another West Coast kingpin, DJG combines the atmospheric air and druggy pulse of dubtechno with the half-step, stop-and-go patterns of dubstep. He treads lightly through sonic waves and melancholic landscapes that strike an emotional chord. Lacing his tracks with glittering bells, traveling guitar strokes, and bouncing keyboards, DJG’s dubstep is made to soothe and move your body and soul.