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Good Dubstep Music (2010-15): The Future of Garage

Jonathan Rimmer itcherThe mainstream success of dubstep has triggered an explosion of interest from around the world. Rather than allowing the genre to become stale and stagnant, this generation of artists are seeking to transplant old-school garage and 2-step influences into new progressive sounds. ~ Jonathan Rimmer

A Movement Divided?

Since the turn of the decade, dubstep followers have generally been placed into two broad camps: drug-addled clubbers who favour drops that give them nosebleeds, and brooding hipsters who listen to Burial in their bedroom.

Of course, the reality isn’t that clear cut – in fact, many renowned ‘chillstep’ producers are often capable performers of both styles. A more accurate explanation would be that the introverted and extroverted elements of the genre have diverged, as was the case with house and techno in the mid 90’s.

The following five artists are known for either expanding or minimizing dubstep’s role for experimental purposes.

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Post-Club Dubstep Music Recommendations

Phaeleh

Essential Album: ‘Fallen Light’ (2010)

Taking control of the elements // Making them mine, making them mine // Touching up all of the elements // Taking my time, taking my time…

Phaeleh is arguably the most impressive purveyor of the IDM-garage hybrid that has developed in dubstep’s post-club period.

On albums ‘Fallen Light’ and ‘Tides’, as well as his own original extended mixes like ‘Afterglo 0.01’, the Bristol producer established a dubstep sound that’s as chilled out as anything made in the realms of post-rock or downtempo.

It’s the wide range between sounds that makes listeners feel like they’re floating: the dub rhythms and droning basslines intertwined with female vocals, piano, harp melodies or ambient textures.

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Eleven Tigers

Essential Album: ‘Clouds Are Mountains’ (2010)

I can’t carry much more, it’s really, really aching and sore // But I don’t care anymore, I really can’t bare anymore…

In terms of rhythmic approach, Lithuanian-born producer, Eleven Tigers, is like Phaeleh’s ADD-affected cousin. His frantic drum syncopations link together like a chain, causing a psychedelic effect for the listener.

His debut ‘Clouds Are Mountains’, in particular, felt more like an extended mix than an LP, such was the consistency in atmosphere and tone. Eleven Tigers prefers to shift gear gradually, using foreboding crescendos to indicate a change in mood.

Critics complain that dubstep has gotten too melodramatic. It’d be harsh to suggest that he lacks emotion – there are beautiful vocal samples and subtle melodies littered throughout his tracks – but he certainly makes music for dubheads that value head over heart.

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Rustie

Essential Album: ‘Glass Sounds’ (2011)

Might as well OD, so after that one take ten times three // Danny Brown and that boy Rustie, Got the game on lock like we changed the key…

Often confused with “brostep” originator Rusko, Glasgow DJ, Rustie, dropped the musical equivalent of a bomb on the dubstep world when he released ‘Glass Sounds’ in 2011.

Whereas some acts on this list have made a career off making dubstep more spacious, Rustie practically does the opposite. He crams so many noises and synths into his manic mixes it’s a miracle he didn’t give himself a seizure.

Though this critically acclaimed ‘Purple Sound’ is more commonly associated with Bristol producers, Rustie’s maximalist fusion of synth funk, dubstep and trap will probably be remembered as its most innovative incarnation.

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Mala

Essential Album: ‘Mala in Cuba’ (2012)

En esta jungle de concreto // Voy gestionando me los suenos // a veces gano a veces pierdo // a veces…

Having moved well and truly beyond the confines of the western world, dubstep has now reached the point in its existence where artists can look to influences from around the world to inject some flavour.

London producer Mala is the most overt example, especially on his ‘Mala in Cuba’ project where he drew from the country’s rumba, salsa and son cubano traditions.

Dubstep’s most evocative moments have often derived from a specific context, with listeners envisioning night-time cityscapes like London or Detroit. Mala demonstrated that you can just as readily evoke Latin cities by incorporating more tropical percussion sounds instead.

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Clubroot

Essential Album: ‘Clubroot: II-MMX’ (2010)

Clubroot is aptly named in that despite peddling a sound rooted in club music, his tracks have a lot more sonic scope. He counteracts his ominous basslines with high-reaching, uplifting melodies that convey a sense of the unknown.

There’s a rhythmic clarity to his atmospheric compositions that remind you of his dub influences, but they’re very much outweighed by everything else. You can hardly dance to any of his three albums anyway, but his drifting synth lines are still too dramatic to be particularly relaxing either.

If he ever uses the term ‘spacestep’ for promotion, I’m claiming the credit. Whatever he calls himself, his productions are absolutely beautiful and that’s all that really matters.

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Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Dub

While it’s easy to get entrenched in supporting one sound or another, the five aforementioned acts remind us that dubstep as a genre has been incredibly resilient. While new trends come and go, there are constantly new artists and styles to discover.

Whether you consider yourself a fan of chillstep, future garage, wonky or myriad other off-shoots, the 2010s has seen hundreds of dubstep aficionados come out of the woodwork.

There are plenty of forward-thinking DJs and acts that aren’t on this list, so why not list your favourites in the comments below?

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