Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Please define Bass Music

Last year I was a participant on Red Bull Music Academy in London.

We had the pleasure of having Kode 9 lecturing us. Amazing lecture. Mind blowing for myself, as Hyperdub is one of my favourite labels, and there I had Kode 9 in front of me.

Below is the video of the lecture on the archives of Red Bull Music Academy.

Link: http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/video-archive/lectures/kode_9_hypersonics

In the end, as usual, the participants had the oportunity to ask questions to the man. I am the first participant that nervously asked him a couple of questions with my strange south european accent.

I enquired him about the foundation of Hyperdub, the label, and then I asked him something that had been on my mind for a few months already. I asked him about his stance on the UK Funky's relationship to the Hardcore Continuum. I was basically trying to have Kode 9 comment on Simon Reynolds' opinion, that UK Funky signifies a departure from the classic definition of the nuum. In my opinion (and Reynold's) UK Funky is a more burgoise iteration of the hardcore continuum history. A great portion of it seems to be have lost its rude boy feel, its chessiness.

Kode 9 disagrees. And rightfully so. By this time last year, Hyperdub had already stepped out of the classic Dubstep territory, and was now exploring the UK Funky influence. Their approach to UK Funky was, therefore, basically the same they had to Dubstep 6 years ago. From his point of view, there really was no such break between the two eras. They basically lowered the BPMs a bit, the structure became less about the half step and more about the 4/4. Things didn't change that much for them.

But, like dubstep, not every type of UK Funky sounds the same.

I remember my shock when one day I put on Rinse FM, must have been 2008 or so, and heard Marcus Nasty's show. It was house.

Despite the initial shock, I got used to it, and soon, I loved it. But still, I couldn't help notice a few things. There was no big, deep, dirty basslines. It was House music.

It was clearly UK (I still remember that he was pushing for the term UK House, instead of UK Funky). Yes, it did have a soca feeling that is not common on traditional house music. It did have a strong rude boy attitude. I could see the garage and grime influences. But you know what? It didn't feel like bass music.

A bit like some forms of 4x4 garage of the Locked On imprint. All of It was part of the UK Pirate and Soundsystem culture. But it wasn't bass music. But then again, during that time you already had grime, that had come out of the speed garage/2-step universe. That side, however, was bass music. The more 4x4 side of UK Garage ended up fusing with the global house scene for a while. This other side of it continued to carry the torch of the original UK Rave into Grime and Dubstep.

Returing to the questions I presented to Kode 9. Maybe I confused my concepts. To be Bass Music is probably not a required element of being part of the Nuum. The thing is, up until now, it had always been like that. Bass came with the Rave. So when people were talking about UK Bass Music, they were refering to the Hardcore Continuum Universe. Maybe now it's not like that anymore.

I guess it doesn't matter.

What defines bass music anyway? Is it the presence of bass?
I don't think so. Bass music is defined by an association with a certain type of ghetto culture that worships bass. You can see that in Jamaican soundsystem culture. You can see that in car sub-woofers. You can see that in miami bass, ghettotech, dancehall, hyphy, crunk, jungle, speed garage, 2-step garage, grime, dubstep (probably excluding the bro step side of it) and I guess Uk Funky aswell (even tought i'm still skeptical about some of it's forms).

Traditionally, House and Techno tracks have powerful sub-bass. But is it bass music? No. Existence of sub-bass cannot be the sole requisit for qualifying as Bass music. It requires a certain rude boyness/ghetto association, and a certain chessiness.

I'll give you an example.

Actress. A name that is usually associated with Bass Music culture. It's a leftfield producer doing wonky, dubstep, house and techno inspired grooves.

But, is everything he does bass music?

Does this specific track remind you of the traditional image of bass worship?


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