Tag: dub-step

Dark Electronic Experiments

voxel records theremin music experiment

welcome to our latest update from the world of underground indie electronica. this month we found some experimental producers making music with a dark and moody edge, and the tracks on the playlist are tinged with styles that sculpt acid, techno, electro, dub-step and ambient into their creators’ own niche. have a listen!

First, we found Tabula Rasa which is from last year’s album SEUIL by ArtSaves. This has recently been given the remix treatment with brand new versions of most tunes. The original version of this particular track opens with a slow, haunting techno riff whistling behind bit-crushed percussion, but the rhythms slowly build as bass drum decay extends into an anchoring riff. The pace evolves by its rhythmical complexity, before a giant pad chops the track in two. The string synth signatures of this second movement intertwine into an echoing, ambient soundscape swollen with subtle motifs before fading into the gentle pick of acoustic guitar. This is a sophisticated production which is recommended for fans of Autechre and LFO.

Simplextro by Ring Theory launches us into a swamp of pacey effects from the outset. As the effects subside, the track breaks down into an innocent piano riff before reaching out its spiny tentacles to mash up the track with more effects wizardry. Whilst the production lacks the full bottom end typical of mainstream dub step, the adrenaline builds and nimble drum fills keep it true to the form. The production does well to encapsulate the simplicity of dub step into a more measured, electro context without mounting a full on and uncontrollable assault across the frequency spectrum.

The Time Will Never End by German producer n8front is introduced by a soft, steady heart beat from an electro bass drum accompanied by a sustained vocal pad. A breathy aqualung is sprinkled across the mix, before it breaks into a plodding, yet complex rhythmic shuffle. it is the lumbering variations in the percussion that drive the track, allowing simple sustained pads to breathe their mystery through it. The heavy rhythmical backbone sinks this track into the earth, and the lighter melodic tones to drift around it like mist.

Dark Ecstacy is the only track available from TiNO KREY on the Soundcloud stream. It opens with old-skool acid rave voices prodding a minor 3-note riff that is rendered by a howl reminiscent of the classic Korg M1 synth. The dry 808 drums add unadulterated authenticity, but the rhythms swing in and out of traditional acid and contemporary trap to give the whole arrangement its modern edge. If you’re looking for a bit of that retro rave spice then follow TiNO for any future tracks!

 


Dubstep: Psycho Acoustics

staffie graffiti

Many styles have evolved since technology has become more and more influential in music production. Our previous electronic music adventure took us on a tour of techno,  a groundbreaking genre that has since spawned many other sub-categories and heavily influenced club nights around the world.

For this article, we have investigated the roots of dub-step and the essence of its production. We wanted to get to grips with this relatively new genre, where it developed and how it combines with other music that circulates on modern turntables.

Dub-step is rooted in urban South London, rising in the early 2000s from this bustling hub of ingenuity like many other innovations before it such as grime, garage and break-beat. As with the development of techno, the style is very DJ-oriented, and combined influences from UK garage with deeper origins in dub reggae. The infectious and versatile two-step rhythms, heavy bass and masterful combinations of effects have become hallmarks of the modern dub-step record.

Producers and DJs of the style are devoted to urban themes, and are named with dark or monstrous tags, like graffiti, that convey the depth and power of the music. As we’ve discovered, the extension of the style to its graphic art draws interesting (but presumably accidental) parallels with heavy metal, and this feedback loop has recently produced even more interesting results.

Urban Roots

The general consensus is that the early artists were born out of Big Apple Records, a record store in Croydon (South London). The likes of Digital Mystikz, Skream, Benga, Loefah are just some of the key names that appear early in the music’s history.

Techno sounds merged with sparse, shuffling breaks, stuttering effects and deep bass synthesisers. A lot of the components from these early tracks are pure techno, but laced with thin traps that avoid interference with the detail of the deep bass riffs. It is the unpredictable nature of the ominous bass lines and climactic rhythms that forces the listener to move with their gut feeling and not rely on the predictable rhythms in other styles; and this is probably why the grooves are so infectious. The classic 2-step beat is less apparent in many earlier tracks, but the dub-step still rips up rule books written for techno or house, and drills down into the core factors that get crowds moving. The influence of dub reggae is definitely prominent in Digital Mystikz and Loefah as their music develops slowly from spacious and reverberating delays and doom-like deep bass drops, but is underpinned by the urban vibe supplied by the thin electro traps from tech like the old faithful 808 drum machine.

Dubstep Anatomy

Dub-step tracks tend to sit between 130 and 150 bpm in tempo. They often cue up at half this speed due to the tendency to omit the up beats, making the track appear slower. But this technique allows the producer to inject serious pace later in the track when the atmosphere has been built up. Clubbers will find themselves moving slowly before being hit with a wave of energy as the true tempo is revealed.

Tracks are quite brief – between 3 and 5 minutes in duration. This doesn’t allow much time to evolve, so abrupt changes are introduced regularly every 8 or 16 bars. This keeps the music exciting in a short timescale and doesn’t rely on the subliminal influences or lengthy atmospheres of techno or ambient.

The thick, syrupy bass of true dub reggae and jungle is ever-present in the bottom end, and if you can’t hear it on your iPod it will quake your bowels in the club. Whilst the bass and drums were surgically separated within the frequency spectrum for earlier tracks, modern dub-step employs speaker-shredding synthesisers wailing abrasive timbres, and exploits modulating filters, sirens and delays to the extreme.

A trademark of modern dub-step is the bass wobble or wub, where sounds are filtered to a rhythm, pulling and stretching the bass across triplets and quavers as well as the frequency range. On its own, this effect is something that can be easily programmed using modern production tools; but it is also something that can be created on the fly by the DJ if their rig is equipped with serious filter and overdrive effects. Much as kill switches have been used by DJs in the past to mix tunes together, modern DJ controllers allow effects to be scratched in as part of a live performance, much like hip hop.

As we mentioned, early dub-step tracks were careful to separate the drums and bass whilst maintaining a definite groove. Many modern tracks take the gloves off and throw acoustic, electronic and sampled breaks all over the spectrum for maximum effect. Bass and snare drums sound huge and weighty. Producers will more than likely use these to compress competing instruments or even the whole mix using a side-chain, and this makes modern dub-step far more aggressive than the original productions. A familiar bass drum sound can be traced back to the old Alesis SR16 which has plenty of bottom end but also a sticky, high-frequency attack.

Infectious Rhythms

Most dub-step records make use of the classic 2-step drum beat derived from UK garage, and this is often married with breaks, triplets and fills for maximum impact. This beat gives a slow, heavy, head-rocking vibe but can easily be doubled in time to inject energy and urgency. Dub-step producers use the power of this variation to attack the audience with waves of changing beats which only the most uninhibited are able to surf.

Dub-step also shares features with trap, using the thin, electronic trills of hi-hats. In current releases, this technique is often used during drops, but was used more continuously in earlier records. The use of lazy triplet shuffles further gives dub-step a more human and performance element, even though it is almost entirely electronically generated.

Psycho Acoustics

In addition to the rhythmical improvisation that continuously evolves throughout most dub-step records, the wall-of-sound effects are almost the polar opposite to something like techno or ambient. Whereas the melody within a techno track is implied by evolving timbres, dub-step overloads the frequency spectrum and is appealing in the same way electric guitar distortion is in heavy rock. The clipping of the signal induces all manner of frequencies and not just simple tones, and the effects will be perceived both physically and subliminally. The whole package is more likely to burst forth than chill out, so modern dub-step is not for the feint of heart.

Our survey of contemporary dub-step records shows the genre to be truly diverse. Roots dub-step very much carries the attributes of dub reggae with respect to bass and spacey delays plodding predominantly at lower tempos. Enter the new young ruffian of cousin bro-step, and we hear the trademark wow-filter, heavy metal tainted riffs and drum fills accentuating grooves that may otherwise have lain undiscovered.

Modern And Mainstream

The crew that grew from the seeds at Big Apple Records are still touring strong, but other players have entered the game and broadened the horizons. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex represents an evolution of bro-step and glitch that has dominated the mainstream in recent years. Bands like Pendulum and The Prodigy could also be credited to some extent with getting punk and metal to permeate dub-step, or equally demonstrate its influence in other music. However, the urban core of dub-step is still the best place to score some awesome tunes.

The Nato Feelz track Showtime combines cinematic power with wub-laden filters and club-friendly drops to dramatic effect., and Energy by Front Artillery’s Dayskid hollers synthwave riffs through watery filters but still keeps a ska-tinged offbeat beneath tumultuous glitch finger-work. The reggae influence, more glitch and bold riffs combine in Bad Trip by Skitear (a.k.a. Blayd), and the stern wubbing in Joe Garston‘s Quickscope demonstrates a crossover of dub-step with popular melodic tech house.  

Everything Everywhere

To us, dub-step is a style that is well at home with laid back reggae and stripped back trap. It fits with breakbeat and jungle to bring energy; and can be refined to slot into heavy metal. The compatibility doesn’t end there, though. Our own crate digging has also revealed a harmony with glitch, when rhythmical accents are adorned with blasts of quasi-random effects and octave-leaping lead riffs.  The cheesy digital sounds of synthwave also often turn up in rude, bold melodies that are further beefed up by heavy filters and overdrive. And last but not least, dub-step influences have washed over many film soundtracks to accompany the visual intensity and action sequences.

Dub-step is probably one of the most diverse genres in terms of creative production dynamics in the world today. From the grime of basement clubs to the sheen of the stadium show, there’s something for any lover of the extreme. It’s music that’s less about soul and more about attitude.

Voxel Records producer Maze Car picked up the challenge of creating a demo track that tries to reflect this diversity. You can listen to it below, and read about the trials of its creation on his blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Digging Deeper for Underground Music In September 2016

voxel records exclusive hoodie

Hello once again from the team at Voxel Records! This month we have dug a bit further underground in search of more new and interesting tunes.

The recent changes at Soundcloud have changed how we curate our selections, so we are currently developing different ways to search out original artists. Hopefully the minor changes in format will be good for you too!

soundcloud

Wild by hip-hop/dubstep producer Exira is a choice cut from a meaty collection of work over the past year. This particular track is dominated by the bend, bubble and buzz of the synth line, but extra lift is provided by the underlying scratches and breaks that you might not expect from your typical dub-step ditty. These subtle differences give extra breadth to this solid, head-stompin joy.

Diskoloser by Rattenjunge (featuring TY GRRR) demonstrates the youthful and sharp style honed by this German outfit. This production combines electro, glitch, punk and rap ethics into one tasty bundle, with poetic delivery cutting through above throbbing synth tubes. Every track is different on this stream, but there is plenty to turn your head upside down and inside out. Glitch-hop heaven.

 

bandcamp It can be a bit of a minefield over at Bandcamp, but the best approach is to dive in, and forget about musical ability and production finesse. Purity is the seed of what may one day grow into something amazing. As with the other platforms, there are millions of tracks to play with, but after a bit of digging we managed to find these beauties.

Threads by Canadian songwriter Loon stirs up a lot of memories. A minimal backing of pads and bells with unobtrusive trills from the percussion support the quivering and almost maniacal vocals of Tessa Dawn K. The obvious comparisons with Kate Bush in the writing and performance combine with the spectre of late-80s arrangement into something beautifully listenable. What’s in a name?

Lyrically, Grind by MuteR carries the work-to-live theme that we have probably all identified with at some point. A soft staccato of melody is scattered sweetly over dark and stumbling traps; but it is the voice of Adrian Shegstad that stands out in this production, and indeed his other tracks. The performance is immaculate, and echoes a blend of classic pop vocalists like Matt Goss and Nik Kershaw. Great work.

orfiumOrfium is filling up nicely with new artists as the platform slowly games maturity. We had a quick pan through the flow of new tracks here, in the hope of finding another golden nugget …

The Great Magnet is one of a small clutch available on the Ercall Knox feed. A short, grainy guitar loop is soon bombarded with bold, dirty drum chops reminiscent of his highness the DJ Shadow; and this similarity continues with the retro-movie sample monologue. The underlying samples are backed up with a raw off-beat synth, and the whole track drops us down on the ambient side of big-beat. Definitely one for lovers of Shadow or maybe The Orb.

Blaquarium by the Niebelungen Blues Band will assault you with mid-range presence and loudness, but the style quickly becomes familiar. The squeaky synth arpeggios and underlying drum groove clearly nod their headlights towards older Orbital, so this is a feed to follow for anyone with a soft spot for break-beat IDM. There is little else recent to be found from these Swedish producers, but we hope there is more to come soon.

 

 

 


From Screaming Dubstep To Chip Tune Trap In May 2016

Voxel Records Explosive Music

This month, we have another diverse set of tunes from the electronic underground to share with you – so be sure to check out the playlist below!

Lately, it seems that the music business is getting confused about how we should listen to music. The closure of Beatport streaming suggests that we should be downloading our favourite tracks, but rumours of Apple closing its iTunes download may suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, there are reports that Bandcamp sales of physical media have increased significantly. In a world where the flow of data through the internet is often wasted like water, we think the download model is probably more helpful for many music fans because we can listen to our music off the grid. Carrying multiple subscriptions and draining our download limits is not always a practical solution.

Thankfully, there are millions of independent producers and plenty of platforms on which they can host their wares. From established players like Soundcloud and Bandcamp to the noobs of Orfium, there are plenty of music makers working outside the confines of corporate pop.

Voxel Records resident Maze Car has recently been lost in Spain (whilst some old friends are Lost In France). This has reduced studio time somewhat, and the search for a vocal component for the next single continues. We hope that this search will end before Mazey’s life turns into a crazy retro platform game and an acute case of life imitating art can be avoided!

First on the playlist this month is West Coast by Domascus. This is a screaming dubstep roller-coaster of raw riffs joined together by awesome stuttering fills, and the wailing portamento of the eastern-tinged lead is surrounded by bit-crushed drops. The music has all the power you expect from the genre, but Domascus manages to sprinkle a laid-back off-beat vibe throughout the track. We bet there is plenty more good stuff to come from this producer as he hones his craft.

Du by Bosque opens with a delicate, soothing and shimmering chord progression before a wistful lead and squashy traps take over. Gorgeously granular motifs play off each other throughout this deeply digital arrangement, like a journey from 8-bit to 64-bit that gives chiptune trap the silky finish it has always deserved. The combination of sound design, melody and style is rarely captured as sensitively as it is here.

Finally, we found Shattered Backbone by SHI. This is a production stripped back to the bone, with a subtle synthetic horn clipped and crushed beneath soft and sultry vocals and a thin veil of birdsong. There is a melancholy trip-hop presence here that is reminiscent of early Portishead, but the production stands out on its own with unique mood and style. With only a couple of tracks available we hope to hear much more in the future: SHI cool.

 


Festive Tones From Electronic Wonderland

Festive 3D Baubles

Hello again, and welcome to the latest VXLRCRDS update. We have recently noticed that the internet may be in need of some stitching, because it seems to be leaking vowels. Whether this is in homage to major acts, the effect of an increase in the price of column inches or just some l33t-punk way of dealing with predictive text, we just can’t tell. Either way, a trend that seemingly bubbled up from the tunnels of underground music has now trickled into Twitter handles and beyond. We are sure that history will eventually let us know what caused this, but until then, why not enjoy some more of the tunes we found this month …?

Maze Car is pleased to announce the first mix of his new demo – listen to Those Shallow Games now on Soundcloud! Lovingly assembled from squelchy 8-bit gizmos and subtle but funky breaks, a few more tweaks are expected before a single release in 2016 – we hope you enjoy this preview!

First on the playlist this month is Bloom Sequence by En Snares, which is the first from his current long player All Tomorrow’s Yesterdays. A heavy, syncopated beat thumps at the subtly-glitched pads beneath as they heave like a pit of molten lava. The weighty filter swell then drives the track forward as an auto-tuned vocal creeps in, and the menacing lyrics complement the depth of the tones at work. Aspects of glitch, dub and noise are all evident in this down-tempo and moody production, so it’s well worth exploring the rest of the album.

Next up is Aout-kush by Leto Nojey. This track is constructed from three primary stems, each of which raises and lowers its profile as the piece progresses. First is a delicate ambient guitar intro, treated with a subtle delay, which soon gives way to free-form beats accentuated by the whip of a hefty snare drum. Finally, a deep bass riff drives beneath the other instruments to assume control, whilst sweet acoustic cymbal tones provide extra freshness to this well-formed production.

The last tune this month is Gangsta Walk by Dubtone. This track is one of only two available from this Romanian producer of meaty dub. The unassuming build-up of piano and hi-hats lifts the aura before the tune plunges like a guillotine into a filthy, funky dub-step breakdown and howling acid drop. The brilliance of the track lies in its simple but tasty fx, and it would definitely form a great strobe-fueled filler in the club. We’re looking forward to more output from the Dubtone!