Electronic/dance music is largely based on musical conventions. Whether it is the use of the amen break, as a sample and dominant rhythmic pattern in drum & bass, the repetitive pounding of a kick drum sound in house & techno, or the low, rumbling, electro-bass of breakbeat – there are certain things a listener can expect from a particular sub-genre within EDM (electronic dance music). These conventions, or standard musical elements are fairly easy to extract and then combine (or mash-up) with a dominant element from another sub-genre, creating a new musical form.
In simple terms this is the foundation of the mash-up, a technique that has been at work in popular music ever since DJs starting blending & manipulating records in the 1970’s. It has certainly become a popular sub genre of it’s own.
While it is endlessly entertaining to explore ways to combine rock, rap, 80’s synth pop, swing, jazz, r&b, dancehall, bhangra…I would like to dig a little deeper into how the mash-up of musical conventions within electronic/dance is creating some compelling new sub-genres. Let’s start with dubstep.
By no means did dubstep just come on the scene, but it certainly has started to break out in the realm of EDM and even now in mainstream rap over the last year. As evidence on Jay-Z’s latest album, The Blueprint 3, with the song Hate produced by and featuring Kanye West. Eve, is also preparing to release a single titled “Me -n- My” produced by dubstep heavyweight, Benga (left).
Dance culture in the UK has long been fascinated with reggae/dub, garage, grime, drum & bass, and techno. Put all these together and you get music that is characterized by dark textures (grime), slow tempos (around 70 bpm), deep electro bass lines (drum & bass & garage), and glitchy sounds & patterns (techno), with a reggae/dub feel. Often the rhythmic patterns created with the use of delay, echo & reverb in reggae are expressed with actual percussion, samples, and instrumentation in dubstep. Syncopation dominates, but is anchored by strong downbeats. Electronic, spaced out timbres (remember Trip Hop?) and synth sounds are quite common as well. If I had to break this down to a simple formula it would look something like this:
(grime/garage + techno) x reggae/dub = dubstep
Burial, Mary-Anne Hobbs, Distance, Bassnectar, Joker, Martyn, Skream, Caspa, Rusko, Kode9 are some good artists to check out if you’re interested in exploring the sound of dubstep. For some further reference and insight:
And, we do have our very own Dubstep genre station here on Pandora.
Stay tuned for the mash-up profiles on Baile Funk, Bmore/Ghetto Tech, and Indie Dance/Nu Disco.
Dance Collection Manager