music is math…

Live Music

From Dub to Dubstep

While dubstep evolved from Jamaican dub reggae in a somewhat indirect fashion, its pioneers quickly found their darker instrumental garage cuts also suited the principles of dub music production.

And so dubstep as we now know it was born. Heavy bass drops, sparse rhythms, ragga-style vocals and, of course, massive sound systems have since become staples of the sound, even as producers experiment with a wider selection of influences.

As UK garage and drum and bass became more commercial, dubstep appealed to those looking for a style more faithful to the origins of dance music production.

Just as producers such as King Tuby and Lee Perry worked at mixing desks in the 1970s to create a visceral mix of stripped back bass and drums, a new sound was now developing based on these principles as well as incorporating influences from all kinds of electronic music and beyond.

Dubstep has been embraced by traditional reggae and dub communities all over the country, from the streets of South London to nights like SubDub in Leeds. Even “The Upsetter” himself, Lee Perry, recently collaborated with several dubstep acts to rework his seminal Blackboard Jungle Dub album.

As this short film shows, interest in the links between dub and dubstep are reaching new levels. This month sees the start of the ‘Dub to Dubstep’ tour, with backing from organisations including Black Routes and Arts Council England, which will see the Channel One Sound System tearing up venues from Bristol to Leeds.

30 years ago, Channel One started taking their sounds to new audiences outside the Caribbean communities of London and have since toured all over the world as well as playing the Notting Hill Carnival for over 25 consecutive years!

Now they will be performing alongside the people they helped influence as a host of exciting dub and dubstep acts join them in celebrating their 30th anniversary. Check out Kromestar’s ‘Hungry Dub’ for a taste of what’s in store…

There is a playlist to go with this post but as Spotify’s rubbish for dubstep (and dance music in general, sadly) it’s not as good as I would have liked. Apologies, but there’s still some good stuff on there (from Mad Professor to Digital Mystikz), just click the Spotify Music tab at the top and download away!


What on Earth is Thom Yorke doing?

A couple of moths ago I wrote here saying how Radiohead were recording new material and were once again set to confound the music industry by releasing their music in a radical way. I’m sorry to have to say that this never really happened, with the exception of one free song, ‘These are my Twisted Words‘.

The weeks following this release have seen the band confound not so much the music industry, but its own legions of fans. Normally, Radiohead entering the studio with Nigel Godrich generally results in the band emerging with some new songs and playing some shows.

What has actually happened is odd to say the least. Radiohead’s latest sessions have indeed resulted in new songs and gigs, however these have mostly been in Thom Yorke’s name.

While it was unclear what Yorke and co. would do next, I doubt anyone predicted a live performance of The Eraser in Los Angeles with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing bass.

The “supergroup” is an almost invariably disappointing notion, which is why many are still a little apprehensive of this move. This seems different though, it seems to have been born out of ambition and creativity rather than arrogance. Just as interesting is the prospect of more solo work from Johnny Greenwood and the other members of the band.

These are uncertain but exciting times for the band and their fans. At a time when music is often predictable and uninteresting, Thom Yorke has again proved himself to be the master of surprise.

Various Live Noises


Thought I’d kick this all off with a brief celebration of live music.  There really are very few comparable experiences to enjoying your favourite band in a sweaty room or muddy field surrounded by thousands of complete strangers.  For me a good live set seems to blur into one moment if you enjoy it, leaving you with little memory of what was actually played because you get so caught up in it all.  The real test of a good gig comes as you leave, tired and with a deafening buzz in your ears, barely saying a word as you revel in what you just witnessed.  All very cathartic.

Everything in its Right Place

1. Radiohead – Exit Music (For a Film)

A truly unique and mind blowing song.  I was lucky enough to see Radiohead live last summer in Glasgow and, though they didn’t play this, the sounds they managed to produce live were unbelievable.  Watch Jonny Greenwood here, the catalyst for many a great Radiohead moment, switching between the eery mellotron choir sound and abusing his guitar to create a crescendo before that fuzz bass kicks in.  Incredible.

2. Boards of Canada – (Untitled)

An amateur audio recording taken from a rare live set for Warp’s 10th birthday.  Just listen to that sound!  I can’t believe there are people talking over this in the recording.  This song captures a sound as enchanting and mysterious as BoC themselves, a complete one off.

3. Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone

Dylan casually creates one of the artistic statements of the century with this response to being heckled.  His command for the band the “play it fucking loud” stands as a motto for live music, especially if you’re about to rip into one of the greatest songs in popular music’s brief history.  Essentially, just get up on stage, do your thing and if it’s good people will appreciate it.  I’d love to know if Mr “Judas!” bought a copy of Bringing it All Back Home, but regardless of whether he did or not it’s pretty clear who’s laughing now.

4. Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe

Pete Townshend said something along the lines of “If you didn’t see Hendrix live, you can’t appreciate him properly.  Too fucking bad.”  On this evidence we who missed out reluctantly have to accept that he is right.  If this footage is new to you, minimise the window and listen to the solos.  Not bad, right?  Now watch it and imagine seeing that for real.

5. R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter (with Thom Yorke)

Well, all I can say is that I’m glad this exists.  First of all it just looks really 90s, all so gloriously nostalgic, carefree and strangely familiar (even though I was about ten at the time and probably didn’t even know what Tibet was).  Secondly, the sight of Michael Stipe in a skirt reeling off his stream of conciousness lyrics while Thom Yorke flails around singing Patti Smith’s emotive backing vocals with a brilliantly urgent delivery.  And they hug at the end.  Perfect.