Tag Archives: dubstep

Unearthing Burial

‘I’m a bit like a rubbish super-hero …” says Burial, shyly.

So began Dan Hancox’s exclusive interview with the dubstep musician known as Burial. At least, it was exclusive when it was published last fall. Now, the chase is on to grab hold of this (formerly) elusive musical force.

Burial

Burial

For all intents and purposes, Burial is (or was, depending on the context of your thinking) the closest thing that the music world could ever get in terms of a superhero. Although I had mentioned that prototypical “rock stars” were the equivalent of iconic superheroes (or the ideas of such) in an earlier post, Burial’s case is literally a comic book come to life. If the superheroes of comic books made soulful electronic, reggae-based pop music.

Will Bevan

Will Bevan

Will Bevan appears to be your average young adult. There’s nothing particularly out-of-the-ordinary looking in his profile. Hell, his online profile for the all-too-famous website Facebook is easily found at the click of a few buttons. At a quick, momentary glance, he just appears to be another kid from London. Like Peter Parker, he would appear to blend into the background to all but those who know him.

And then there’s this other side of him. The side that only a few know about. The side that gets held in higher-than-high regard among those who chomp down on dubstep plates, who consume music factoids at fast-paced speeds. The side that would appear to “save lives” through the serene sounds of soulful, calm, and altogether inventive dubstep – a bastardized combination of UK hardcore, garage, 2-step, electronica, grime, and just about any other electronic-based genre coming out of London. The side that gets pushed to the pantheon of great artists with a Mercury Prize nomination. The side that gets hunted by the tabloid media. Is it Untrue to think that Will Bevan’s alter-ego, Burial, really isn’t some sort of superhero in the music world?

Part of me wonders what will happen to Will Bevan, Burial and their combined musical output after his decision to unmask himself to the public. Done under such circumstances, when his alter ego was viewed with unheralded mythic-like proportions, its hard to tell what the final outcome will be like. Bands – or more importantly, the individuals behind them – get put on the grandstand, but it’s usually a gradual process that their entire beings are emotionally attached to. Even with the “OK Go effect” – where a former one-hit wonder suddenly storms to unseen popularity with the help of YouTube – involved something of a climb, albeit quite quick rather than gradual. But with Will Bevan, Burial was a mask to hide his individuality behind – and a great one at that. No matter what the music press or fans said, he could always physically and mentally distance himself (to what degree, who knows) from the magnetic image of his creation. What happens now will still be in control, but a situation that will no doubt contain momentous pressure.

With that, I have to call back to my main reference point: emo. As mentioned in various previous posts, emo, as a musical creation, is a genre based on normalcy – anonymity if you will. As Fugazi’s popularity climbed in time with the alternative boom, the band members continued to make the decision to separate themselves from the rock-star status that the media and mainstream were shaping the new punk acts into. The members remained, and continue to remain, your average member of society, a point that they strike home in Instrument, the documentary which showcases Fugazi’s blistering live sets next to images of them relaxing in motels, gassing up, and food shopping in supermarkets while on tour. Their rejection of the mainstream allowed them to stay – at least in their own realm – perfectly normal and did not impede upon their creative zest for powerful post-hardcore. And it worked. That same element, coupled with a general focus on regular issues in life that seem to be shared within the lyrics of most 2nd and 3rd wave emo acts, was carried through to the genre’s current incarnate. It isn’t until one faces the operatic stage-pandering of My Chemical Romance that you realize how emo, in some cases, has been absorbed within the mainstream.

My Chemical Romances live shtick

My Chemical Romance's live shtick

And so, Will Bevan is now faced with the first day of the mainstream’s possibly-fatal attraction. But chances are, he’s mighty aware of the consequences of his actions; the short note he left on the Burial Myspace blog has an air of assuredness that can only come from someone keenly aware of their actions. Bevan made the decision to be anonymous, and he made the decision to open to curtains. Although Bevan and Burial were connected as one in the same by NPR back in May and by The Independent before that, it wasn’t until Bevan did the deed himself that the blogs and press have actually begun to stand in attention. Clearly the power and all in Bevan’s hands. Chances are he’ll know what the best decisions are in his – and Burial’s – life.

Burial – Ghost Hardware (fan video):

More Hips to Hop

In a slightly tangential continuation on from the previous post, I’ve stumbled upon even more riveting recent hip-hop releases. Or, in the case of The Streets, soon-to-be-released….

Mike Skinner = The Streets

Mike Skinner = The Streets

Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, was a huge surprise coming out of the UK. Back in high school when I picked up the Streets’ first release, 2002’s Original Pirate Material, I was floored by Skinner’s cockney drawl and skitterish beats. The idea of a British rapper sounded gimmicky to me before I picked up Skinner’s album. Since then, British hip-hop has been anything but a gimmick, with the widespread influence of The Streets, grime, and dubstep (among numerous other hip-hop genres) back in the UK.

And while hip-hop has been subsumed into UK culture naturally, The Streets’ antics have been drawn more towards the realm of gimmick. The Streets last release, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, just seemed to plod familiar territory as Skinner made more news for his lengthy music videos than the content of the music in said videos. But, with the free, online release of “The Escapist,” off the upcoming release Everything Is Borrowed (due out in September), it sounds as if Skinner is making a turn back to churning out some musically ambitious material. It leans a little hard on the “slow Streets songs” method of musicality, but it’s still pretty great.

Doomtree

Doomtree

On the other side of the pond, Minneapolis collective Doomtree released their “official”, self-titled debut yesterday (I say “official” as last year’s False Hopes was also released under the Doomtree name). I never thought Doomtree was ever more than a hometown collective that P.O.S. would namedrop in his solo work. I was in awe of P.O.S. when I saw him open for Atmosphere at the Middle East three years ago; armed with an iPod and his own intelligent flow, P.O.S. was simply stunning and held the stage better than any other opener on the bill.

It’s easy to see how P.O.S., Atmosphere, and a handful of other acts who are loosely connected to the Rhymesayers collective have been tagged with the term “emo rap.” The lyrical content of these acts contains a certain sense of introspection while the performance of said songs is purely cathartic in ways that are almost alien to most modern hip-hop, they travel in the same circles as many emo acts (which has included prime spots on various Warped Tour outings), and many of their basic elements and ideology is derived from a basic DIY, punk element. It’s just as much hip-hop as it is punk, and yes, emo.

P.O.S.

P.O.S.

With Doomtree, it’s great to see a clan of folks that can match and flow with P.O.S. After years of hearing so much about Doomtree, but not hearing anything from said collective, I’m pretty excited at the chance to pick up their new album. Just watching the video for “Drumsticks” is reason enough (it also makes me want to join up with Critical Mass). But, enough writing. On to the music!

The Streets – The Escapist

Doomtree – Drumsticks video:

Jimes and the New Garage

There’s nothing quite like a musical discovery, and Jimes is not quite like anything else I’ve found in recent memory. Jimes is the kind of thing you inadvertently stumble upon and then mildly-obsess about for a handful of minutes. Jimes is absurd, endearing, and entertaining, simply by being.

Jimes live

Jimes live

Jimes hails from Chevy Chase, an annexed part of the greater Bethesda area that’s all encapsulated in the DC metro area. Despite the feet which separate his home turf from mine, I had to go to New York to even realize such a character/musical entity existed. And so, while searching for a small-scale, underground show to follow up my Siren adventure, I discovered Jimes was scheduled to play a new hole-in-the-wall venue in Brooklyn.

I didn’t make it to the show (I ended up throwing away all my post-festival plans for relaxation), but Jimes certainly stuck with me. The anarchic, non-musician to the extreme, uber-garage pop immediately jumped out at me. Hey, it’s not great musicianship, but there’s an immediacy and power to it that’s lost on a lot of bands I like to lump into the “mainstream.” Clearly, Jimes (who is the singer, but is also the umbrella name for the full-band) isn’t doing this for money or fame, but simply the power of expression… or most importantly, fun.

More Jimes

More Jimes

Of course, Jimes’ forwardness with which he proclaims his inability to create music is easily connected to the first wave of punk, where non-musicians became an icon of the movement (if not exactly the true creators of said punk music). And as emo is as much a part of the narrative of punk as it is a sub-genre, Jimes’ straight-forward creation of music for the sake of creation is reflective of much of the narratives behind emo’s most noteworthy acts. Although many of those acts had different ideas for simply creating their music, one thing is clear throughout; it’s just important to do it. And if Jimes has any relation to those in the Dischord crowd, the kids in the Mid-West emo scene of the 1990s, or the teens bouncing around basements in New Jersey in the late 90s/early 2000s, his drive to create is in part fueled by his derision of the mainstream society around him.

As far as Jimes’ connection to any greater community is concerned, that is a scene I would be very interested to learn more about. Jimes’ playfulness and musical audaciousness is reminiscent of a number of acts from around America, yet ones who don’t appear to have any direct connection to one another. Math the Band readily comes to mind; the New England-based act was originally just a fun-loving guy named Kevin who sang over beats he constructed on his laptop. But Math has since expanded into a full-fledged band that’s been touring with buddies Harry and the Potters (the defining act of wizard rock, which is it’s own little scene) and will soon be playing a festival in Pittsburgh with none other than Bob Dylan. Juiceboxxx is another one of these whatever-you-want-to-call-it acts, though there is a touch of professionalism. Hailing from Milwaukee, Juiceboxxx is known for putting on urgent and insanely danceable shows, all of which can be heard in the immediacy of the goofy-yet-catchy laptop-based hip-hop tracks.

Math the Band

Math the Band

I could be trying to force certain puzzles in place when there isn’t anything there necessarily. Without any immediate connection to one another, there’s a certain lack of any tangible scene, a driving force which has powered emo to this day. And yet, for some reason, all of these acts are cropping up across the United States that have a general aesthetic connection; technologically-driven (though slightly deficient) music and a drive for creativity that is more parts humor and fun than anything else. If anything, this is a mark of the technology on the ability to create music. Just as cassette tape players made it easy for anyone to make some form of music in the 80s (which Calvin Johnson took to heart with K Records), the laptop has made it insanely easy for anyone to record anything.

Juiceboxxx live

Juiceboxxx live

Although mash-ups, techno, dubstep, grime, and any other electronic-based genre have long been the focus of technology-in-music when it comes to the role laptops have played on modern music, they can be (and in the case of Jimes, are) used for simply recording live instrumental playing on the fly. What’s happening now is something similar to the rise of garage bands in the 60s (although not on such a grand, noticeable scale). As rock bands became a commerce of cool, kids across the country formed bands without any thought of ability or community – just make music. And it’s happening again, only with the laptop instead of the guitar.

Call it “New Garage.” Call it whatever you want. In the same way that garage rock produced hundreds of hundreds of bands across the country, each unique and the same all at once, that commitment to music above all else is happening all over again. And that’s a great thing.

You can download most of the Jimes catalog here. Below are clips of live shows from Jimes, Math the Band, and Juiceboxxx.

Jimes:

Math the Band:

Juiceboxxx: