A long personal journey through the evolution of music
I can barely contain myself - for the first time since 15 years I am excited like a little kid again. The reason is music - music for the clubs but also music for the home - a kind of music that fits strangely into any mood and continues to make me smile almost every day. To give you the right mood first a soundtrack to the journey I am taking you on:
When I was reading Gibsons Neuromancer some long years back I stumbled over the scene of the space Rastafari listening to dub in the lower cramped confines of a space station. Up to that point I loved the story and was totally immersed - I am having really vivid head films when I read so as long as the story seems believable I am in a different universe actually seeing it all in detail. Yet this scene somehow didnīt stick - it ripped me right out. It just didnīt fully fit into a space station - even so it was a funny idea of the author. It was the dirty analog feeling and the beach images and the old rastafaris making dub. My mind just wouldnīt believe they would roll their spliffs to that lowtech music on a hightech space ship - no matter how run down it would have been.
I have always listened to any kind of music you can imagine and didnīt really develop a taste for music that you can call taste until pretty late in my life. MC Hammer, Depeche Mode, ACDC, Kraftwerk, Genesis (yes Phil Collins - please beat me to death) where my early "favorites". With the fall of the wall things took an unexpected turn.
The reunited Berlin - it was like a new huge playground that waited to be explored and exploited. For me it mainly offered one thing - an absolute uncontrolled club scene that I was attending and getting involved with at a very young age. Of course that influenced my music taste quite a bit - I was going fully electronic for a long while - it didnīt really matter what but of course it being Berlin it was mostly that specific powerful housy style in the beginning that really got me. Some parties where so insanely energetic its hard to describe it in words.
Over the years then I got introduced to drum and bass and really fell in love with the slower more dreamy songs that genre implied. Somehow at that time magically Dub appeared in my life - I thought really hard where it actually came from - I donīt know - probably a song heard somewhere then getting into it more. Lee Perry, Mad Professor, Burning Spear - I bought tons of CDs with about any kind of Dub you can imagine and I loved it - but somehow it was dead music it was at a standstill there wasnīt anything really excitingly new coming out. Eventually I got bored and moved on - still playing it now and then.
11 years ago I started VJing. Playing visuals in clubs puts you in a very unique - if not always comfortable position. Standing there behind your laptop like a geek you have to listen and coldly analyze the music all night long - you listen to the breaks but also for the mood and the energy of the tunes. You also try to sense the energy of the room and either go with it against it amplify it calm it - whatever you think is appropriate. I have played by my last count 270+ gigs. Most of them all nighter - meaning 10+ hours for 270 nights same style of music. The styles changed - lots of electronic house music but also Jazz, Reggie, Rock, HipHop & some Punk - but mostly electronic in any form. After all its what I grew up with learned to love and where I had the most amazing experiences. Yet slowly but surely things started to get boring - I attributed it to me being in the clubs all the time and having to work. Then about three years ago I stopped the weekly gig sessions concentrated on other things and just went out for the fun of it (mostly). It sucked. I know people who came with me disagreed with me back then but really the spirit was out of the rooms. I debated with myself and friends what the reason for this could be. The music hadnīt changed much their where still fresh clubs in warehouses popping up - regardless it just wasnīt the same anymore. Some parties had on the surface a good vibe until you figured out that 100% of the people where totally and utterly wasted. You always had the drugs in the clubs of course but it was only adding to an athmosphere that was already nice and powerful - its totally different if people just take the drugs to get going at all and this is what I witnessed more and more.
After a while I got it - it must have been the music - I was utterly bored of it and subconsciously I think most of the people in the clubs are. Yes "minimal" is still heralded as the end of all music in the cooler clubs of Berlin - but its always the same same same and same in different shades of same. Its predictable boring without surprises and if the suspense in that music would be reenacted in a movie you would fall asleep after only 2 minutes.
Now its not sooo much different then what was on 15 years ago - what has changed then? Times have changed. As I have written in my VJ theory already I can repeat that here too - time has speed up, things have become more complex and to invoke any feelings you have to add a whole 'nother level of energy to it. A simpler example for anybody to see what I mean - look at an average horror movie from 1970, 1990, 1995, 2000 and now. It says all - the gore is multiplying 100 fold over each time period just to invoke any kind of reaction in people. While in 1970 you have maybe 3 cuts per minute you sometimes have 3 edits per second nowadays. Why would it be any different for music?
Bored with the house music I sidetracked myself with going back in time (not to phil collins ;) and generally just opening up to any kind of music again - as wide range as possible.
Through the local DJ around here (Jóse and mogreens) I was introduced to Brokn Beatz and electronic Jazz. I hated it at first. I still canīt totally say that I ever liked it. The nice thing about this kind of music was that it was not boring. It has always been a total challange to vj to that music - trying to see the breaks coming up and reading the ever changing mood is very hard. For the normal listener who doesnīt want to get deeply involved with the music its very hard to draw energy out of that music - while in the boring department its far beyond any other style listed so far - I just never couldnīt fully get into it and I really tried.
Just recently I found some temporary shelter with some local Punk bands. Why did it drive me to punk? Energy - raw freaking energy - energy that was still powerful enough to move people. God there is something about screaming singers and guitarr riffs that is unbeatable in the energy department.
The story could end here and I would still be looking for my hail mary pass to music heaven. Why? The problem with Punk as with pretty much any handmade music I have ever listened to is that after 10-20 minutes I get bored - it seems the same. Yes the music lovers can tell me there are nuances in there and I just have to listen closely and then it wonīt be boring. I am there to get my energy pushed inside a group that gets the same energy pushed. Its the ritual why you go in the first place - a convection of energy in the room can lift your spirit for days on end and give you an evening worth remembering - whats the fun in taking the music apart - so you can be cool and talk about it? Unless you are doing music yourself I donīt see the point. So Punk - nice distraction and I still like to go - but still there must be something advancing coming up please no?
It did - less then a year ago I started to stumble over something that I first took for an advancement of Drum and Bass - it sounded different then drum and bass - but on some level familiar to me. It wasnīt really revolutionary yet here was a whole force of new music called freaking Dubstep. I was skeptical. I had been listening to more dub recently again as there seemed to be some movement in root dub to get electronic but its wasnīt the Dubstep thingy by far. The early Dubstep that I listened too was just so close to some jungle tracks in the early 90s. I almost thought ok thats it with music from now on we are going in circles back to the past and forward again - it seemed all music styles had been mixed with each other and advanced to a point where just the music nerds could figure out that it was new. Its really been about five years since I really could discern a certain radically new style - since then - silencio. Yet here was this really heavy drum n bass coming around the corner that somehow grooved slowly. I listened hundreds of hours of dubstep internet radio channels. It was good - very powerfull - yet stil there was something missing - it was too dark to heavy to monotonous still. While it gave me 2 hour bursts of energy I had to turn it off after a while it just didnīt stick - I was again getting a bit sad about it - as they used dub - my old time favorite in the name and if that didnīt evolve that was probably dubs last chance or so I thought.
Then something happened that changed it all. It got diverse it morphed with the electronic dub we had been playing in our podcasts. There it was dubs soul together with raw energy and speed of drum n bass mastered as if it was an electro song and even inside one song more diverse then a whole night of minimal techno. It wasnīt to be the only song in that direction. More and more I heard here and there and then I had my first Dubstep party with this "new" kind of dubstep - the dub step with more dub in it - in a Punk bar in Potsdam. There is something about "special" parties that is hard to describe - its the vibe the connection with the other people in there. This party - even so extremely small - was like that - no chemicals - but a lofty vibe with smily persons who just canīt stop to groove.
In the last two month since then its exploding - Dubstep has gotten so diverse that its eating up about any and all music styles in its path - dub was always playful with samples but what is happening at the moment is on a whole new level and not only that its rarely really cheesy its mostly really fun and uplifting and powerfull - heck it can even be played live and still invoke all its positive things as I was allowed to witness last weekend. Its music girls enjoy and even people who normally hate ANYthing electronic like it and dance to it. And even after 10 hours constant listening it just doesnīt get boring (good DJ or mix is still essential of course).
There was once long ago a party in the Berlin Pfefferberg where 9teen and gregoa played under the name "chill at will" - it was in retrospect one of the top 10 parties I have ever been too - even so it was the chill out room. The concept of the duo was to mix very chilled music with danceble and energetic music - people freaked out. Dubstep - like I have experienced it lately - is exactly "copying" that concept but its much smoother as its all based on the same rythmic concept and flows together like water. Going slow then ultra fast (think gabba fast) in less then 2 minutes with basses that push your stomach inward and it all feels natural. I am totally obsessed - in my view its a new beginning for music. The boundaries have not been reached - its very exiting. The last time I witnessed something like that was in 1993 - the early days of Techno. And with it goes an early scene without pretentious people just like the early days. People scream again tick out just to then talk to each other on a slower bit of music - raw feelings in the room no hiding no "checking out". Ultra lovely.
So to vindicate Mr Gibson - he was maybe right when he said the Rastafaris of the future listen to dub in the space station - he just forgot to add "step" to it. If I would read the book again that scene would not get me out of my film anymore. Needless to say I am very very happy and feel really lucky that I see this much exciting music development in my lifetime - to all you dubstep producers out there pushing the boundaries - YOU ROCK.
dubstep-berlin.de Dubstep Forum for Berlin
Badda Boom Sound Reaggy Ragga Dancehall Dub and Dubstep from Potsdam
soundcloud/dub-zone Wide variety of different dub tracks
braintheft.org Whicked live played dubstep from Berlin
Spoke DJane playing and producing wonderfull dubstep