Dubstep Pioneers

by Bianca Merbaum

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Can u think of someone else, just let me know.


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