Forward Sounds 2008

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


Maybe 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 FWDร‚ยป, 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 Producers like Apple are hinting at the sort of mutations that originally made UKG into an interesting local product.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.

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Tommorow: Roll Call (edit: delayed but coming soon)

6 Responses to “Forward Sounds 2008”

  1. David Says:

    Nice read. As your Monoculture one. Keep it on.

  2. martyn Says:

    I think perhaps for people who have not experienced the early FWD>> years and who are making music in 2007, they can either pick their influences out of what is now called “Dubstep” (see your fabric cd review:)) or out of the immensely more interesting legacy of what you describe as Forward Sounds. I think we can both come up with a list of names of people that are making a really exciting blend of early 00’s UKG and really diverse sounds from house/techno and whatnot..
    keep up the good work!


  3. kek Says:

    Lovely post!

    I particularly liked: “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”……or when names get assigned, almost arbitarily: Acid, Grime, Niche…

  4. paul Says:

    Cheers guys! Just a little behind on the follow up post buts it’s on the way.

  5. Blackdown Says:

    Funnily enough Paul, I’ve been re-infected with the 2step virus of late. With that in mind, Martyn, your remix is now nearly done, as of 20 minutes ago ๐Ÿ™‚

    Re the ballance between orbital innovators/central cloners, I dont think the situation is quite that polarised, with people like Kode9, Appleblim, Mala, Distance (even if you dont like metal, you have to admit he has his own sound) getting booked at ‘central’ dubstep clubs like DMZ, FWD>> and Subloaded.

  6. paul Says:

    Yeah I’m being careful here to say it’s ‘increasingly’ polarised, not that there are two utterly distinct camps that have nothing to do with each other. More that tension is increasing as differing priorities pull away from each other.

    A Blackdown/Martyn collab with a 2step twist? Looking forward to that ๐Ÿ˜€