Posts Tagged ‘dubstep

05
Dec
11

Transformers Music: The Rise of Skrillex and “Bro-Step” in EDM

The dynamics have severely shifted in electronic dance music as indicated by the popularity of Skrillex a.k.a Sonny Moore in 2011. The bespeckled former frontman of screamo outfit From First to Last, established a house hold name for himself within America’s dance scene this summer after playing numerous headlining sets at festivals across the country. His rise to success undoubtedly coincided with the awakening of America’s new dance music trend among youth: dubstep.

Go to YouTube and type in a top 40 song, in fact any popular song and you will find a plethora of dubstep remixes and most of them are AWFUL. But according to the “dubstep” experts out there, the “dubstep” made in America is an inaccurate interpretation of what it actually represents. The genre became heavily bastardized from its London origins since gaining traction in the states this year, like most electronic music. Now it’s commonly referred to as “brostep,” a subcategory of dubstep described by its frequent use of obscenely loud distorted bass wobbles and glitchy electro sounds that makes fans go buckwild. Many people claim this sub-genre sounds like a cacophony of lazer farts or transformers fornicating. Hilarious, but I kid you not. A lot of folks do not enjoy dance music that feels as though their ears are being raped by harsh frequencies. I was never a huge fan of hardcore, but I can tolerate the loud, fast and angry style of playing so much more than Mr. Moore’s music.

Skrillex has become a figurehead of “brostep” and especially appeals to the rave curious high school and college demographic. While he displays a lot of “Brostep” elements in his productions such as obnoxious formulaic drops and hard metallic bass, his music is also categorized as “Fidget House,” which incorporates a mix of dubstep, electro and house styles.

In “Rock N Roll (Will Take You to the Mountains)” it starts off as said fidget house: a generic electro house beat, repetitive vocals, claps, glitchy laser synths which leads to more choppy samples, a build up and then the anticipated “Rude boy bass” drop: robot burps, video game samples, elephant trumpet calls and other distorted noise. This combination of schizophrenic, stutter noise defines Skrillex’s “signature style,” something that not only grinds my gears but sounds like gears grinding.

Then there’s his breakout hit “Scary Monsters N Nice Sprites,” the song used in a Go Pro action camera commercial and apparently a modern DJ’s wet dream. Sigh. Countless producers have remixed it and I’ve even heard it play at bars. Now it’s nominated for a Grammy (which lose more and more credibility each year). Okay, I get the intro synth is SORT of catchy but again, more elephant bellows and goblin robot bass. I’ll admit his use of the famous speed stacking girl’s “OH MY GOSH” is pretty funny, but is it really necessary to use in multiple other songs? Good grief, Sonny Moore. Mix it up, kid.

Now let’s talk about the happy, uplifting message of “Kill Everybody.” No wonder Korn collaborated with Skrillex on their latest nu-metal-dubstep album. Metal and Dubstep have combined forces to make music exponentially worse than the two separate genres! The introduction begins with ramblings by the malicious Megatron over a standard dance beat. Throw more wobbles, processed engine noise and an annoying chipmunk repeating, “I Want to Kill Everybody.” Ugh. The title explains how this song makes me feel. But again, one somewhat redeeming synth part and that’s it. More noise, Decepticon confessions and predictable use of samples that frequent EVERY Skrillex song. Basically, certain parts sound like Megatron ate a bad taco.

The 3 aforementioned tracks are on Skrillex’s unfathomably popular and recently Grammy nominated Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, an EP produced entirely on his lap-top. It’s no wonder he’s often criticized as a “push play” performer. Yes, I unfortunately caught him very briefly at Camp Bisco this past summer and he does indeed, press play. Sure, he occasionally turns some knobs and adjusts some faders. But his classic “rock star” move? Triumphantly lifting his arms in the air to screaming, sweating frenzied bug eyed teens, all while chain smoking cigs. In fact, I wonder which thing Sonny would give up if he had to choose between cigs or his beloved use of the transformer rape and video game laser sound library.

After witnessing the mania of Skrillex’s set, my ear drums and I felt immediately violated from hearing the abrasive noise and bass overkill, never mind the teenage wasteland unfolding all around me. Hey, I’m all for a good time on the dance floor but when people are collapsing and convulsing around you, irresponsibility can only be tolerated for so long. Poor EMTS at Camp Bisco had their hands full this year. Anyways, I walked away knowing I was immune to the possibility of experiencing an epileptic seizure. The recent bass culture movement has become a new low (pun intended) at festivals; especially this year at Camp Bisco where I had to suffer through Borgore’s bro-tastic electro dubstep during an early evening main stage set that was 300 feet from my campsite. I just don’t…get the hype or gratification people feel from experiencing Skrillex or “brostep” productions, live or recorded. I must be getting old.

Speaking of inspiring performances, I don’t know which is more exciting to watch: Skrillex smoking cigs and raising his arms for every similar, predictable drop or house producer Steve Aoki running around, spitting and pouring champagne at the audience while his “music” magically plays in the background. I mean, I’m all about tomfoolery onstage, but are you actually mixing anything live at all? Obviously the audience doesn’t care because they’re too busy getting their faces melted with bass. Duh.

Worst of all, Skrillex collaborated with remaining members of the Doors for the “Re:Generation” music project which teams up modern producers and DJs with older, reputable musicians. The keyboard and guitar tracks sound synthetic and over-processed and of course, Skrillex adds his transformer effects and lazers. To me, it’s cheesy and brings nothing exciting or innovative to the table. It’s a 21st Century flop.

I don’t care how many people like him. The fact is my ears bleed and skin crawls when listening to Skrillex or “brostep.” Personally, I like music that’s pleasant to my ears and displays a range of high, mid and low end frequencies. One friend of mine summarized, “I listened to Skrillex once. Nearby electronic devices came alive and tried strangling me with their cords.” If the other songs haven’t convinced you of a truth to his experience, then listen to the drop in “First of the Year (Equinox)” and see if your electronics turn to the dark side…then call 911 NOW!

I guess to each his or her own, though it’s a shame we live in a world where most talented musicians and producers don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. I mean, have you seen 2011’s Grammy nominations? Oh wait, the Grammy’s have been a joke for years now. Anyways, as the bass culture wave expands and people continue to get their fix of filthy, grimy, dirty drops, maybe we’ll all be too distracted to notice actual evil robots taking over the airwaves so they can “kill everybody.”

Let’s hope they start by pushing Skrillex off a bridge. It’d be his best drop yet.

19
Oct
11

EOTO @ Jillian’s in Albany – Thursday October 13th, 2011

String Cheese Incident’s live improvisational side project EOTO returned to Albany this past Thursday, redeeming themselves after a redundant and unimpressive set back in April when they opened for Bassnectar at the Washington Armory. Instead of catering to the “basshead” crowd like last time, their set at Jillian’s demonstrated the duo’s uncanny ability to create and execute multiple styles of dance music. While both are trained drummers and percussionists, Jason Hann sits behind the drum set as Michael Travis stands surrounded by samplers, keyboards, a guitar, and bass, focused on crafting melodic loops.

I only caught ten minutes of ELECTRONICAnonymous, EOTO’s opener. This DJ project of Jules Jenssen, the drummer of Higher Organix and more recently Indobox, warmed up the dance floor by playing dubstep and electro-house for the eager young crowd. After a short break, Hann and Travis came onstage and the main event of electronic music magic began.

Performing two sets for an approximate total of 3 hours, EOTO continuously explored various genres and thoroughly excited the audience at every turn, much to my delight (considering their previous wobble heavy sets from the Armory and The Big Up). They cohesively concocted one style of electronic music to the next with a nice balance of breakbeat, house, dubstep and techno. At an early point in their first set, EOTO went from an upbeat electro-house tune to a west coast hip-hop instrumental, very reminiscent of a Dr. Dre beat. From there, Travis plugged in an electric guitar and used a sitar setting, creating a very psychedelic, middle-eastern vibe as Hann laid down a mellow, dub beat. Glancing at the six flat screen TV’s displaying kaleidoscopic visuals made it an especially trippy show moment for me.

In addition to bass and guitar loops, EOTO threw in popular vocal samples over fun and quirky dubstep rhythms, including Salt N Peppa’s “Push It” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Watching Hann switch tempos and drum styles, smoothly transitioning from fast aggressive patterns to slow, syncopated beats was also very entertaining. Basically he is the groove monster and Travis is the loop master.

It was incredibly enjoyable to witness EOTO’s charismatic musical prowess and energy onstage at Jillian’s. For two middle-aged men to appeal to young twenty-somethings nowadays is rare. After Thursday’s experience, it’s apparent Hann and Travis are tuned into what’s new and relevant in today’s electronic music scene, indicated by their diverse palette of styles and unique take on live improvisation. With a demanding fall tour schedule (playing 29 out of 31 dates in October) it’s remarkable how hard this aging yet rambunctious dance factory works, striving to captivate and move audiences from one city to the next. I hope EOTO continues to bring the same raw energy and variety that was present at Thursday’s show because it truly reminded me how talented and multifaceted they are as musicians.

Performing at Electric Forest Music Festival in Michigan

Rating: 4/5




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