Review: This is the Roots of Dubstep Vol. 1
‘This is the Roots of Dubstep’ is a collection of seminal work from the dubstep scene that has helped shape and influence dance music of the past decade. Tracking the transition from commercial garage sounds to the more sub-low driven tracks we hear today, this album covers the creation of the genre that ended up defining dance music for the latter part of the decade. With the original sound of dubstep being lost in recent years to the American moombathon enthused synth bashing productions by the likes of Skrillex, its good to be reminded of how it all began, and how the scene continues to be influenced by it.
Taking it back to 2000-2002, the drum & bass scene of London was spreading across the country, while local nights made way for the rise of garage, following the commercial success of tracks such as ‘Sorry’, ‘Love Shy’ and ‘Girls Like This’. There was a duality in underground dance music: on one side sat the heavy, bass driven masculine sound of drum and bass, and on the other, the swinging, sexy feminine sound of garage.
Dubstep, in essence, planted itself in the middle, branching the genre gap for the first time. More weighty than garage, but sexier than drum & bass, a multitude of current artists owe their dues to the releases on this collection. Even the current resurgence in ‘Deep House’ in part owes its success to these early producers, who showed you could mix the dancey and popular with the bassy and underground.
The collection begins with El-B’s classic original version of ‘Buck & Bury’, which perfectly demonstrates the essence of the genre. Deep and hard-hitting, yet restrained and sparse, it creates maximum dance floor energy with minimal parts. Driven forward by the wonky sub low bass and barren 2-step drums, the instrumental falls into club harmony with the unmistakable vocal. This is followed by the Alley Cats’ ‘Cover Me’, expressing the collection’s more feminine side with its smooth speed garage bassline and female vocals. ‘The Club’ captures this same vibe with its sexy 2-step beat and minimal bass focused hook.
‘Amazon’, ’Girl Crazy’ and ‘Club Music’ take a different turn, expressing the album’s grimey, darker side. Swinging garage motifs are replaced with brutal bass hits and minimal, atmospheric synths, showing the depth of influence this collection had on today’s productions in both grime and dubstep.
There are a few tracks that don’t fit as seamless into the picture as the rest, most notably Zed Bias’ bass-driven link up with Manchester’s current finest Fox and Chimpo, ‘Move Forward’, which shows the breadth of influence and style associated with this collection.