Dubstep: From brostep to fartstep

The term remix is often tossed around nowadays. Remixes used to be reserved for hip hop producers who would take the a cappella (vocals) off of a hip hop single in order to engineer a new beat around it. Even before that, there was dub.

Jamaican producers using the then-current analog studio-mixing equipment in the ’60s, such as King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry, pioneered a new means of creating original scores by resyncing drum patterns and bass line recordings originally recorded as accompaniment for lyrical roots-reggae songs.

In this innovative and almost-entirely-instrumental-genre, the vocal track, which was the reason for which all of the parts had been assembled, could be alternately turned on or off, filtered through an assortment of equipment, or in the most traditional dubs, left out entirely.

These early dub versions were originally the omission of vocals with the dance-hall-pleasing side effect of a rock solid beat, so there was no singing to distract the audience from the movement of the score.

The trend of creating  multiple dubbed versions of songs from the same raw materials grew in  the ’70 in Jamaica and New York where musicians may not have been able to afford a full studio. With a mixer and a turntable (or reel-to-reel), they were now able to create full compositions in less time.  When the programmable drum machine was invented in 1972, mixing artists also had the option of creating a new rhythm to an existing vocal track (essentially the opposite of dub). The hip hop remix was born.

Dubstep is a modern kind of electronic music that usually includes samples of lyrical records with syncopated drum rhythms, produced either by a sophisticated drum machine or a series of pre-recorded drum loops turned on and off by programmable controllers. Early dubstep, however, like the original “version” dub styles, broke ground by finding creative ways to use the filters and loop-cutting tools of an analog DJ mixer to produce rich, vibrating bass lines.

Dubstep is different from house because of its halftime feel. House has four bass kick beats at the beginning of each beat. Dubstep refers to the fact that it’s rhythms usually have two kicks per four-step pattern. If there is a kick on each beat, that’s what’s commonly known as four-on-the-floor rhythm. Brittney Spears, you have no clue how to use an 808.

On Youtube, Andy Rehfeldt is arguably the king of the remix. Where most producers will re-record one or two parts to lend their ear to a song, Rehfeldt has made a name for himself by entirely reverse engineering pop vocal tracks into brutal-metal-shred-offs, and vice versa (cannibal corpse’s “Hammer Smashed Face” done a la “Radio Disney”).

Rehfeldt’s most recent creation, is the most filthy, brutal, heavy, mosh-step you may have ever heard.  When Los Angeles DJ and Low End Theory resident The Gaslamp Killer drops Rehgeldt’s remix of his track in the West Coast, you can bet it’s going to dissipate. Like so much deadly gas, fartstep has arrived, and it has landed on the L.A. Times.

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