The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982

In Writing

The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

new build music

Derek Walmsley

Walking out of Kode9's DJ set at the recent BLOC weekender in Norfolk, all of us there in The Wire's chalet were saying more or less the same thing- noone else plays the kind of music Kode9 currently plays out. There's very little of anything approaching dubstep in his sets: instead, there's what sounds like speeded up crunk, Southern hiphop reedited into ever sharper shards, all kinds of ghetto funk given technofied refixes, neo-soul taken at breakneck pace.

Both Kode9 and Hyperdub seem to be going in the opposite direction to what you might associate with dubstep: the music is getting quicker, sharper, more synthetic and fractured. Watching his set, I wasn't sure whether to dance or to just marvel at the way he's able to splice these musical genres together. The breadth of music traversed was enough of a rush on its own.

It strikes me that few artists are able to speed music up and retain the funk when they're remixing; it's much more common to slow beats down, to straighten them out and explore the spaces within (think of screwed and chopped hiphop, triphop etc.) It's a much more difficult feat to speed music up and yet find a way to still make it successfully mesh with other styles, to engage the body. To do so is like trying to tinker with an engine while with someone stepping on the accelerator. Perhaps understandably, remix culture is more about breaking music down than building it up. It's perhaps only Kode9 and Surgeon who've I've really felt they we able to do this the other way round.

As Kode9 himself has suggested, the relationship between dance genres (and their tempos) and the body is a deep and complex one (think of how techno and house have subtly different emphases despite fairly similar tempos, and yet they seem to 'work' entirely differently). Splicing the DNA of dance genres is a bit like playing Frankenstein. I'm still seriously impressed that it ends up creating something so graceful and exhilarating, rather than some disfunctional mutant that only a drugged-up crowd would enjoy.