Roughly, dubstep began as a reaction to U.K. garage music, itself an innovative, underground club movement that had been polished to a pop sheen. Artists such as Horsepower Productions, El-B, and Digital Mystikz slowed the sound way down while looking to dub reggae's dystopian worldview for inspiration. Influential DJs (the BBC's John Peel and Mary Anne Hobbs) and stations (Rinse FM) spread the sound to a wider audience.
The longer history of dubstep is rather more straightforward. The "dub" and "step" components of the hybrid form's name have their origins in two very different traditions: Dub in its pure form is a subset of 1970s Jamaican reggae, derived from the production of instrumental "versions" (or "doubles") of existing songs; the "step" in dubstep has its origins in two-step, a variant on UK garage (itself an accelerated take on Chicago garage, a close relative of house). Two-step encompasses elements from a wide range of dance-music styles, but it is characterized by a bass kick that skips the second and fourth beat of each bar; it fills the resultant gaps with a powerful snare drum to generate a bouncing shuffle.
It’s been around since the late ‘90s, but after garnering attention from mainstream media in 2010, dubstep has become one of the most loved, hated, and argued about music genres since grunge bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains debuted on MTV. At the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, Skrillex, whom many consider the leader of the U.S. dubstep scene, took home three awards, and Deadmau5, his closest competition, performed with the Foo Fighters.
The techno influence in dubstep encourages 'cinematic' readings that elaborate spaces associated with sound. The blog Woebot (Matt Ingram) suggests that 'perhaps Dubstep is a kind of contemporary Exotica foundered [sic] on recycling old Jamaican music?' Producers also use voices, string refrains and percussion that betray an interest in Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and African soundscapes.
The London dubstep scene, for example, is accessible and welcoming to partici- pants from a wide range of social backgrounds in a way that the “underground” jungle scene never was, but it is also characterised by a certain self-consciousness which is inevitably somewhat embarrassing to those who can remember what the jungle scene felt like “back in the day”. Dubstep is an internationally-successful genre whose devotees desperately want to belong to a “scene” and to listen to avant-garde music with its roots in reggae, jungle and grime.
Dubstep music slowly found its way to the Western Hemisphere in the following decade and has since made its presence known in the American music market. Dubstep DJ Skrillex was one of the first artists to attain major commercial success in America with his 2011 EP “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” which peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard dance/electronic album charts. MtvU recognized America’s growing interest in dubstep music this year by adding an additional category to its annual awards show.
The invasion of Dubstep production is widely evident in various styles of music; now with hard rock n roll to poppy-commercial radio songs, all employing the Dubstep vibe to drive their tracks. Most experienced engineers already own the necessary tools to produce Dubstep music, however many are uncertain on the techniques involved. However, the basics can be explained in very simple terms, with the nitty-gritty technical side being more of a matter of preference for how you like your bass to sound.
No summary of the year in dubstep would be complete without the ever-expanding wobble side of the scene, recently hilariously and accurately renamed "brostep." In the UK, the wobble sound is now the default dubstep position for many fans, as the scene commands a increasing share of the Friday night/student/super club market. With the fanbase expanded far beyond any one core, complaints about deviations from South London circa 2005 or an overall loss of direction feel increasingly irrelevant; many new dubstep fans neither know nor care about those issues, and complaining about glories past is futile.
When the mainstream began embracing dubstep so wholeheartedly, Cacciavillano was right there. "It used to be that dubstep was a very intimate culture, with people creating and sharing tunes," she says. "If you don't know where something came from, then it's going to be difficult to see where it's going."
The industry has been recently lifted by dubstep, a new music genre, created by solo artists like Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Pretty Lights. In the last year these artists have gone from underground sound to main stage acts on a majority of summer tours. The sound and ability of these musicians is limitless, with technology allowing them to replicate or create any new sound with a click of the mouse. The ball and chain of the traditional instruments has been lifted, and many musicians from a wide range of genres have jumped in the mix for a chance to become relevant.