Sunday, July 11, 2004

scenes and soundsystems

Simon Reynolds often talks about the democratic function of the dancefloor, that acts like an instant focus group to musicians. If a crowd goes wild for a particular track or element then the Darwinian selection process will mean that these traits are selected for (origin of species style)in future tracks to replicate the effects. As most DJs are producers also, the effect will be instant and direct.
Surely then a similar thing occurs with the types of soundsystems that music is being played on. For instance (and I'm really sorry to go on and on and on about it)Dubstep currently has it's home at >>>Forward held in Plastic People, a shoreditch club basically comprising a fantastically huge and crisp soundsystem in a basementwith no fancy lighting, no toilet attendants. Most times I've been there I've gone away thinking those molded earplugs now seem very attractive if not fucking essential. One such incident involved a large quantity of strongbow and The Bug, whose ragga and white noise attack turned into complete semi-circualar canal surgery on the plastic people soundsystem. I imagine the bassline grind of the music played at >>>Forward must be devastatingly huge on that system, so much so that it must be the the music adapting to the system, engineers trying eek out the furthest reaches of plastic peoples transistors on their tracks. Again this is a Darwinian effect, sounds which work on this system would be selected for and those which don't would be discarded,and as this is primarily where dubstep is being played (and plastic people has the capacity to handle vast sine wave bass)tracks are made with this in mind.
Similarly jungle (orrrriginal jungle before the bigger rave events)would not have been played on systems with huge capacity, and so the amen break with it's focus on the snare (surely the greatest snare ever recorded) would be perfect for cheaper systems with a big midrange and not much else. The current state of drum 'n' bass could be seen as a reaction to being played on soundsytems tweaked for trance and big-room techno; big hi-fi sweeps are now possible across the frequency spectrum and so producers are obviously eager to show off their epic filter effects, and the purer fidelity now available means tight engineering is favoured over quality of form and content and excitement.

Jak's spurious guide to types of music and the soundsystems that spawned them:
Punk: small venues, mate of band working the desk, everything as loud as possible
trip-hop:headphones, enclosed-ness and claustrophobia
stadium rock: erm, stadiums...but mainly Mutt Lange's hi-tech studio moniters and equipment, plus shitty techniques like recording every string of a guitar separately.
trance: love parade floats
whatever genre star wars sound effects are in: THX, baby


Blogger ilya said...

Interesting point about the amen break and especially about drum'n'bass on trance soundsystems. I have to point out that the amen break has a tremendous lower end. It's is one of the few breaks out there that still sounds punchy and full-bottomed when sped up to 160 bpm (probably also due to it being quite fast in the original) whereas others sound rickety. This also brings us to a point that Matt Woebot made a long time ago that the early hardcore had really wimpy basslines and the more I think about it the truer it seems (with some exceptions obviously).

But then again surely the events in late '91 - early '92 with thousands of people would have been able to afford much better sound than the jungle events in '93 when the scene dramatically shrank.

Basically I am not sure where all this points. Just some food for thought.

July 21, 2004 at 5:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is an awful confession to make, but could you please tell me where the Amen break comes from? I've been trying to find this out for years but without success.


August 4, 2004 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Jak said...

'amen, brother' by the winstons

August 10, 2004 at 12:08 PM  
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