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Forward Sounds 2008

“And you’ll never hear music like this again”
– MC GQ (AWOL tape, 1993)


Originally posted at Deeptime blog

It’s time to revive ‘Forward Sound,’ though maybe in the plural. Circa 2003 that was the open-ended term that used to describe what eventually became dubstep, along with a tangle of threads that split off or got left behind. Just like house first meant “what they play at the Warehouse,” it was a reference to the club night itself, the only place where you could hear as yet unnamed new mutations of the garage machine, whether in the form of Ghost, Landslide, Menta, kode9, Plasticman, Hatcha, Slimzee, etc, etc. And of course it was hardly a ’sound’ at all. Virtually every artist operating under that banner was a sound unto themselves and the Forward style could only ever be a snapshot of those trajectories out of UK garage that happened to be coinciding on a given Thursday night or in narrow bands of pirate ether.

Forward Sounds: mutant offspring straying into the house, swiping tools from the garage, and hallucinating new machines. For my money, the most exciting times in music are always the ones without names, when refugee styles get promiscuous in the zones between the trodden paths. Seven years on from the first FWD», I think it’s fair to say that the most interesting things in dubstep are increasingly outside. The D is contested territory, expanding around the world while, at the same time, narrowing its musical ambitions. Dubstep’s new mainstream seems happy enough to keep their options limited while more experimental types are left to decide whether they should cling to the name or cut themselves adrift.

In fact, the seismic rumblings seem to be getting louder across the entire spectrum of late-UKG these days. It’s not just dubstep that’s breaking up again. Grime’s undergone its own identity crisis in the last couple of years, struggling with quality control and losing venues over real and imagined violence. Now it’s bleeding into funky/UK house, last year’s bogeyman, death knell of “nuum” (or was that dubstep again?) which itself is slowly turning into a source of tentative optimism. Producers like Apple are hinting at the sort of mutations that originally made UKG into an interesting local product. Meanwhile, D1’s forthcoming track I’m Lovin is being billed by Tempa as a “Dubstep/funky house mutation.”

RWD Mag founding editor Matt Mason recently had this to say on the ‘Maybe Funky House will turn out OK‘ thread over at Dissensus:

It seems like there is a real convergence going on between all the (not so) different London scenes; grime, dupstep, UKG, bassline and funky house are all being appreciated by DJs and clubbers who claim to be into different sounds.

To me a set of all these styles played together doesn’t sound too different from a 1997 UK garage set, when producers, DJs and clubbers were, imho, far less conservative about what they considered appropriate for the dance floor. Which meant you had a scene with the broad mindedness to include everything from DJ Zinc to Masters at Work to TuffJam to Groove Chronicles to TJ Cases. I think this diversity was part of UKG’s (then) mass appeal.

Is this something people could see happening again? It sounds like it might be already.

We’ll see…

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).