Zomby Nothing [EP]

[4AD; 2011]

Styles: POSTdubstep, postDUBSTEP
Others: King Midas Sound, Kode9, Burial

Post-dubstep. One of the several labels that have emerged in the last couple of years trying to comprise and give sense to several ‘new music’ manifestations, a ‘wild card’ term so commonly used that it’s practically taken for granted among the hype-commanded network communities, where it has been incorporated into the regular pop musicological lexicon and inflated to the point of self-justification. But apart from its taxonomical relevance, let’s take a closer look at the connotations of the term post-dubstep, by isolating its prefix. ‘Post’ implies, in its most literal sense, a subsequential placement in the unidirectional arrow of time (i.e., what came after dubstep). Implicitly, however, ‘post’ also means evolution: change and adaptation, survival and improvement, positioning the neologism in a superior hierarchy than the original word (e.g., post-dubstep is more up-to-date), an anticipated hegemony based on the principle of actuality. (For instance, take the cultural status that genres such as post-punk or post-rock have, in comparison to their respective root words.)

Zomby, the enigmatic dubstep producer, has been categorized in this new movement of delusive forward-movingness, while actually being trapped in a future-turned-present-turned-past-turned-future-again circular logic. Actually, post-dubstep is not a consolidated genre, not even a school: it barely groups a lot of different acts within a temporal region. But there is definitely a post-dubstep-ism flow in the air, and it is undeniable the way this phenomenon, though vague and undefined, has permeated the musical sphere in recent times — for example, the consolidation of wobble, the popularization of ‘bass-culture,’ non-dubstep artists turning to dubstep, and so on. But — paraphrasing David Harvey — shall it be called POSTdubstepISM or postDUBSTEPism? That is, when trying to characterize this trend aesthetically, is it more important to break the self-imposed boundaries of dubstep by experimenting with other (un)related styles — the avowal and appropriation of the musical otherness — as Zomby did with Dedication in early 2011, or to respect the ancient and pure legacy of the ‘breakbeating’ roots (which Zomby had already cleverly summoned in his 2009 album Where Were U In ‘92?) by executing a conscious sonic turn upon them?

In the Nothing EP, Zomby follows Dedication’s trail of non-concluding songs (which actually could be mistaken merely as leftovers from that album) with suggestive titles, shady impressions, and the usual sparkling production. “Labyrinth,” from the first instant, engulfs the listener in its ongoing sonic stream with ragga echoes, while “Equinox” presents his patented arpeggios — slightly slowed down almost imperceptibly at some moments — accompanied by anxious wooshing sounds. Continuing his portrayal of digitized natural phenomena (flora, fauna, rain), “Digital Fractal” follows, this time abstracting the object of depiction into its recondite and melancholic mathematical representation. In general, all seven songs are well-crafted and concise. But resuming the initial argument, the main problem with post-dubstep is that the evolutionary approach (selection and extinction) doesn’t fit well for illustrating music interactions. Rather, post-dubstep could be explained as an epoch where dubstep becomes self-aware of its limitations and possibilities. And that is exactly what Zomby has been proposing: combining and passing genetic music material, as opposed to engendering a completely new post-style (“the only genre of music i like is ‘very fucking good,’” he recently tweeted), breeding thus fresh forms (sometimes more successfully than others) that could eventually lead, as he hopes, to a new golden era of jungle.

2011 has just finished, and while some sharply analyzed recent events related to the wide postdubstepist spectrum, others are already making predictions for 2012. Among this data-saturated context, Nothing can be a comfortable resting point, not only for Zomby, but also, symbolically, for the whole dubstep scene, a brief and peaceful pit stop for mental refueling and contemplation of the followed path in the vertiginous, intricate, never-ending electronic music circuit.

Links: Zomby - 4AD

Most Read