Tag: trap

Acid Hop

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Welcome once again to the Voxel Records view of underground electronica. This month, we have discovered some great tracks by producers exploring acidic techno, hip hop and jungle crossovers. There’s some inspiring ingenuity in this month’s playlist, so go enjoy it right now!

The Source is a project for which veteran techno DJ Freddy Fresh steps out of the booth to collaborate with Dr. Walker of Air Liquide. Straight off, this track lobs us a brief, bouncing motif which is filtered, resonated, echoed and distorted with modular sweeteners as it twists and turns throughout. The percussion sounds are sprinkled with sugary bit crushing to make the drum track equally buoyant, so this funky modular masterclass and should whet your appetite for more creations from The Modulator.

Traveler opens with a simple acoustic drum and bass refrain, but producer subPAR soon injects a gritty bass synth and electro traps, with echoing reverse-keys haunting the background. A few well-timed drops of silence give an extra edge to the overall no-nonsense production, and there are many more great examples of creative beat making over on the subPAR stream, so go check it out.

Our final discovery this month was DnB Ultra  from Tosmen. This lengthy dose of hi-energy dub opens with clean, spiky drums as they splutter like a starter motor, but quickly reach jungle speed. Regular fills and dub FX pepper the mix without overloading it, and acerbic filters eat away at monotonic riffs without losing any energy or pace. The rate and diversity at which Tosmen is uploading tracks should put us all to shame!

 


Dubstep: Psycho Acoustics

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hidden Pop Joy

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Welcome to the November news from Voxel Records!

The latest Maze Car single Those Shallow Games is now available in all major online retailers, but it is FREE for you to download right now from Orfium, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, so please play, like and share!

Coming up in December we will also be publishing the first of many investigations into the classification of musical styles. The aim is to analyse some of the labels and categories applied to music, from the very basic through to the unfathomable. We will be deconstructing and reconstructing various genres in the Red Six studio, and sharing a free demo track with every installment. Keep your eyes on the blog for updates – who knows how far this journey will take us …?

Once again this month, our ears have taken us on a journey through the very latest underground releases on Orfium, SoundCloud and Bandcamp. We have stumbled across the next Lady Gaga, found some great but unshareable music and finally managed to collate a few tunes we think are worth a listen – scroll down for the reviews.

Despite the somewhat incongruous presence of the bass drum, Let Me In is a great production from London collective Lyne. The gentle introduction soon builds up the pace, adding shimmering urban trills to the backing synths in place of the more traditional traps. The instrumentation rightly gives way to the excellent vocal performance that is more than tinged with the character of Adele, and this is no bad thing. The music is already fulfilling its potential as it gathers a ton of plays, so check it out now.

Candle Light is an experimental production by Lebanese producer Stephanie Merchak, Here, mellow trap clicks introduce feel-good melodies constructed from gentle chimes and gently distorted vibrato keys. A fluttering of bit-crushed chip-tune motifs precede the thin pad break down, before the tune resumes with a phased signature of accordion. The endearing and stimulating timbres glitch their way through this track, and indeed throughout the parent album From Dusk Til Dawn.

Bitter Brain appears to be the only track available from Texan duo Tripl3ts, so we hope there is more in the pipeline. A deep, dark monastic humming that borders on the satanic opens this track like a chasm, before familiar soulful vocal exercises and provocative effects are married with the powerful undertow of dub step and trap. The addictive pitched-drum bass licks bring extra greatness to this track, as it plays out with twitching trap hats. And it’s a free download!

Pay heed to the capitalisation of TechNo by US collaborators Casio Playa, because this is far from a pounding club track. The simple, clean production enables a heavy down beat hat to anchor a groovy synth-wave jam session, as choppy synths twirl and riffs emerge and subside with light-touch back up from the pads. This pair of artists have posted plenty more of their ruminations on various music styles, so tune in to their stream for fun sounds.


From Screaming Dubstep To Chip Tune Trap In May 2016

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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.

 


New Year discoveries in underground music

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Welcome to the New Year with Voxel Records. This trip around the sun has started with the loss of some influential musicians – so we would like to show big respect in particular for Bowie, Lemmy and Brad: Thanks for all the good times and the inspiration!

The RedSix studio has once again expanded its sonic arsenal. From the depth and control of the Roland JU-06 boutique synthesizer to the playful japery of the Teenage Engineering PO16, resident producer Maze Car is busy noodling with buttons and small lights. Apparently it is entirely acceptable artistic behaviour to fiddle with one’s Pocket Operator day and night …

Now for some more great music we discovered in the underground this month. First on the playlist is Final Lap by Cleeve Morris. This is a nostalgic journey inspired by the classic 80s video game Out Run. The tinny, cheese-grater FM synth sounds are complemented by deep, wide drums that plod firmly beneath the melodies – in fact, the snare is so deep that it is barely discernible from the bass drum. The tones are right on the money, though, from the arpeggiated lead to the late impro breakdown. Cleeve’s melodic retro synthwave fills the audio spectrum with a depth that the arcade games never could!

h.o.p.e. by BTFL MND is a down-tempo affair. The bright percussion is subtly glitched, and the pulsating pads and bass are given space to move and morph around each other. The lazy groove of the bpm is decorated with further arrhythmic morsels, resulting in some laid-back synth trap that fills the page with its beautifully balanced mix. There isn’t much on the BTFL MND stream yet, but keep your ears pressed to their Bandcamp page for future releases.

Finally, we really enjoyed the latest tracks by Way, Shape or Form, with 1.2.2016 being the first of the year from this American collective. The close, boxy drum machine is intelligently programmed, and it spits a rhythm tight to the groove of the track. These computerised timbres both contrast and complement the more organic elements of the music, which builds from a foundation of bass, through syncopated organ arpeggios and thick jazz-tone electric guitar to distorted pad finger-work. This is an accomplished performance and a fresh mix of instruments – keep it coming!