The Morning News

Listening Field-Tested Dub

Retreat Underground

The history of dubstep is that of a retreat from mainstream U.S. imports. While Burial warps the R&B vocals beyond recognition, the evolution of dubstep began with a desire to turn two-step and reggae darker, introducing the tempo of hip-hop and the finish of house music to create something more intense, intended to be played in small venues with big speakers. [source]
It took a visit to New York and the combination of disorientation and fatigue to allow me to really enjoy the recently unmasked British musician Burial. I think you really have to listen to his music in the right place, in the right frame of mind, to enjoy it properly. My first view of New York, from the air, was obscured by an evolutionary biologist who described the scene below as “soupy”—I was unimpressed.

A better view, early this summer, was later that afternoon in a friend’s echoey apartment in which we agreed that the rooftop party might have to be cancelled due to the weather. The atmosphere was made much more memorable with the introduction of Burial to the scene; he soundtracked blank stares out of huge windows as a lightning storm was passing over the Brooklyn Bridge, and dismissal of the storm’s severity was punctuated by a lightning strike too close for comfort. Friends washed up off of the streets into the tense, humid warmth that complements Burial music so well.

Burial is perhaps the best-known representative of dubstep, a genre that swiftly evolved in the last decade. Above being a descendant of dub-reggae and two-step, “Archangel” is gray, stormy, and silhouetted, painted with long strokes of treble and bass. Burial respects the sparseness of every city at night and presents a ghostly and almost Gothic space—somehow this is glorious. Burial, and dubstep, continues to win fans and he deserves to be favorite for the U.K.’s Mercury Music Prize for his latest work, Untrue. —

» Listen to “Archangel” at Can You See the Sunset From the Southside?

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