“Dubstep obviously is already a thing of the past. This new wave of shoegazer, hipster brand of dance music that’s popular this year — which I think is boring as hell — will soon be a thing of the past. New terms and styles will emerge. But the broader brand of electronically enhanced dance music — which I just think of in my heart as just music — will always have an audience.”
– Bassnectar in 2015, via YourEDM
Declaring a music genre dead is useless in its finality, for listeners know that genres and their conventions metamorphose. Dubstep originated as a chill, downtempo fusion of dub and two-step heard in any Skream, Benga, Rusko, Ital Tek, 2562, or Deadbeat release. The sound gradually pullulated, for better or worse, into the mainstream monster of Skrillex, Flux Pavilion, Datsik and Knife Party.
That the quote originates from Bassnectar is significant. He’s released records for over a decade, predating the massive change in dubstep’s sound. He’s a member of the original guard, one of few producers able to straddle the old and new sound.
Being a fan of dubstep comes with a certain stigma. Everyone knows “that guy” rallying dubstep as their bro mantra at this year’s open-air summer festivals.
But all is not lost. Bassnectar believes electronic music perseveres after a little change. As an example, take post-rock. It is the relentless development of music that bands such as Sigur Rós, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Sunn O))) have reconsidered rock as a way to save it. They eviscerate rock, abandoning verse-chorus-verse structure, lyrics, and the conventions of language in order to create compelling music.
We’ve reached post-dubstep with Wwwings latest release, Phoenixxx, which rises from the flames to deliver dubstep from douchebaggery, splintering the form by mashing several genres and nearly a dozen guest artists into the blender. Even the manner in which the three Wwwings members collaborate is atypical. The cryptically-named members, Lit Internet, Lit Eyne and Lit Daw, met on “Russian Facebook” site VK before working on music remotely in their respective countries, using a messaging service to communicate and presumably to transfer files.
The list of Wwwings’ chosen collaborators is an aural portrait of the thriving underground dubstep scene. The biggest hitter is Graves, who still shares the late-album track with two other artists, including relative unknown Barla.
The bass wobble and many lead synths are absent in the music. Instead, percussion and aberrant mechanical sounds are the focus. Electrical drills, race cars and helicopters swirl through “Aethereal.” Wwwings flirts with witch house on album opener “Lil Angels,” where the intro is quickly swallowed by a melange of clanking pipes and what could be a rotating wind fan serving as the percussive center. The harsh, industrial sound typical of the record is more aggressive than even Flux Pavilion. “Pyro” features a sustained guitar drone and would be at home on an Einstürzende Neubauten record.
The most challenging (and longest) track is “Era,” featuring three guest artists and a twisted choral singer. The track begins with freeform signal processing before lurching to a start several minutes in with a thudding, dominant beat.
If there’s a quiet moment in the action, “Melt” is an attempt, though it’s still propelled with an insistent beat. A key strategy to maintain interest in the tracks is to delay the beat for as long as possible, so its arrival is that much more of an assault.
Curiously, “Arcane” and “Resurge” feature vocal samples but a guest artist is not credited on either track. Any semblance of humanity becomes swallowed by the factory of chaotic clattering. The industrial genre could learn a thing or two here.
Phoenixxx is the current peak in a prolific period for Wwwings. The group has released several EPs all this year with zero repeated material: Meta, Exodus, and Chimera, not to mention the single Ride High and its nine remixes. Phoenixxx, previously distributed for free online, has now been repackaged on Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu label, home to similar artists like Venetian Snares. How the Wwwings trio can make complex, compelling music coalesce from different geographical locations is beyond me, but isn’t wondering part of the fun?
Stream the entire album on Spotify:
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Tristan Kneschke enjoys traveling to places his mother warns him about. Visit www.tristanwrites.com.