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Dubstep

Skrillex got famous for creating an album that tries to sonically represent the sound of two fax machines fucking.

Dubstep began in South London in the early 2000s, and has risen to become the most popular form of electronic music in years. Branching off from UK garage and grime, dubstep primarily became known for a moderate tempo (typically around 140 bpm), a heavy emphasis on bass and frequencies under 100Hz and often (but certainly not always) with a distinctive "wobble" sound. Many artists even delve into infrasonic territory below 20Hz, which is not so much heard as felt. Rhythmically, dubstep is in Common Time by definition and owes a lot of its sound to dub reggae: both usually have a snare hit on the third beat of the bar, and both drums and bass tend to make heavy use of triplets.

Originally minimalistic, dark, and atmospheric, dubstep evolved over the course of the last decade. Beats became heavier, bass more abrasive, and as the sound gained mainstream popularity, more attention was paid to big drops and "filthy" wobbles (usually preceded by a 30-60 second long intro) than atmosphere. This new form of the style became known (somewhat derogatorily) as "brostep"; that is, dubstep that "bros" could enjoy. Contrast "Midnight Request Line" by Skream, one of dubstep's first crossover hits, with the Flux Pavilion remix of "Cracks" by Freestylers, a popular song from about 2010. This division in sound has led to massive amounts of Fan Dumb and Broken Base in the dubstep community, and it will most likely only get worse, as dubstep has, as of 2012, appeared even in advertisements for films, television shows and products. Many artists that once associated with the genre are splintering off and working on other forms of electronic music, such as post-dubstep (dubstep meets R&B/soul), bass music and glitch hop.

In the current scene, there are two popular varieties of dubstep; the aforementioned "brostep", which is harder and more abrasive, featuring a "filthy" sound, start-stop basslines, heavy drops and more emphasis on heavily distorted riffs as opposed to the conventional "wobble" sound of classic dubstep, and often with significant Heavy Metal influences (hence the alternative name "metalstep"); and "chillstep", a Lighter and Softer take on traditional dubstep which features less distorted bass, a more spacey sound, little to no wobble riffs, less emphasis to near-absence of drops and a generally "angelic" or "uplifting" feel, although many other varieties exist, such as drumstep (dubstep + drum and bass), glitchstep (dubstep + glitch music, occasionally with some chiptune thrown in) and noisestep (dubstep + noise/industrial) Dubstep is known among artists for its ease of fusion with non-electronic music genres, such as classical, hip-hop and soul music. Its influence has also been felt in other genres of electronic music, particularly in EBM (electronic body music), IDM (intelligent dance music), Industrial Metal and some hard varieties of Techno and Trance.

One aspect of Dubstep the technically inclined troper might find particularly interesting is that it represents the first time outside of esoteric Experimental Music note  that the beating phenomenon has ever been deeply explored as an integral, preplanned, part of composition. When two disharmonious tones are played simultaneously, the out-of-sync soundwaves alternately combine and cancel, forming a third wave. This third wave is heard as a pulsing, or beating. When this pulse is slow, it is perceived as a rhythm, and when it is fast it perceived as a third tone. Adding additional disharmonious tones to the mix adds more beating to the sound, which creates more complex interactions, and thus additional illusory notes and rhythms. The wubs and wobbles of dubstep are essentially dramatic demonstrations of a bizarre and novel new area of musical exploration; paradoxically using precisely engineered sets of disharmonious tones to create harmonious sounds that blur the line between rhythm and tone.

While the fans and critics of dubstep will doubtless be trolling each other in music forums for years to come over its artistic merits or lack thereof, the impact dubstep has had on the electronic music world is undeniable.

Notable Artists:

  • 12th Planet
  • 16bit (Arguable Trope Maker/co-Trope Codifier for noisestep and glitchstep)
  • 2562
  • 501
  • 50 Carrot
  • Alvin Risk
  • Antiserum
  • Appleblim
  • Artwork
  • Au5
  • Bar 9
  • Barely Alive
  • Bassnectar (Major contributor for modern dubstep; possibly a Trope Maker for brostep)
  • Benga
  • Blackleg
  • Blackmill (Major contributor for the chillstep genre)
  • Borgore (Trope Codifier for brostep)
  • Boxcutter
  • Burial
  • Caspa
  • Chase & Status (mixed with UK garage, drum and bass and electro house; Co-Trope Codifier for drumstep)
  • Coki
  • Cookie Monsta
  • Culprate
  • Darkstar
  • Datsik
  • Destroid (supergroup consisting of Excision, Downlink and KJ Sawka)
  • Dillon Francis (mixed with moombahton; Trope Codifier for moombahcore)
  • DJ Alex S.
  • Downlink
  • Doctor P (one of the very heavier brostep artists around)
  • Dodge and Fuski
  • Digital Mystikz
  • Dirtyphonics (mixed with drum and bass)
  • Distance
  • DZ
  • El-B
  • Ephixa
  • Eptic
  • Excision (Trope Codifier for death metal-influenced brostep, also known as deathstep)
  • Far Too Loud (mixed with breakbeat and IDM; Co-Trope Codifier for drumstep)
  • Feed Me
  • Flux Pavilion (Co-Trope Codifier for noisestep, though he is much more influenced by reggae music than other dubstep artists)
  • FuntCase
  • Gemini
  • Getter
  • Horsepower Productions
  • Ill Gates
  • Jack Sparrow
  • James Blake
  • Joe Ford
  • Joker
  • J:Kenzo
  • Kill Paris
  • Kill the Noise
  • Killsonik (formerly known as Chasing Shadows)
  • Knife Party
  • Kode9
  • KOAN Sound (though they mostly do Glitch-Hop)
  • Kromestar
  • Kuedo
  • Lazer Sword
  • LD
  • Lindsey Stirling
  • Loefah
  • Liquid Stranger
  • Magnetic Man (a Supergroup comprising Artwork, Benga and Skream)
  • Mala
  • Modestep - Full-fledged live band which plays brostep very blatantly influenced by hard rock and thrash metal.
  • Monsta (brostep trio led by R&B singer Bryn Christophernote ; renamed in 2013 as I See Monstas)
  • Nero (The Ensemble Darkhorse of the genre)
  • Mount Kimbie
  • Noisia (Although they've only done a few songs in the style, their main Neurofunk/Drum and Bass style was quite influential to the "brostep" style.)
  • Omnipony
  • Peverelist
  • Pinch
  • Posij
  • Reso (Originally did, but now mostly creates more experimental material)
  • Rusko (Either the Trope Maker or Ur Example of brostep)
  • Scuba
  • Seven Lions
  • Shackleton
  • SKisM
  • Skream (co-Trope Codifier (chillstep))
  • Skrillex (co-Trope Codifier (brostep))
  • Submotion Orchestra (a vocal jazz band featuring dubstep producer Ruckspin at the helm)
  • Terravita - A prime example of the hardest side of Glitchstep
  • V.I.V.E.K.
  • Vex'd
  • Vexare
  • Xilent - Polish rising star who fuses chiptune music with pounding brostep, with influences from melodeath and metalcore here and there.
  • xKore
  • Zomby
  • Zomboy - Mixes Dubstep with Grindcore, Industrial, Speedmetal, and complex classical (yes, as in symphony) influences. Particularly notable for producing demented wacky upbeat hardcore brostep tracks.

Tropes associated with the dubstep genre:

  • Auto-Tune: Commonly used by artists in the genre, mostly to add vocal effects rather than cover up bad singing. The results can range from angelic vocal runs to incomprehensible singing.
  • Broken Base: One of the most divisive genres in modern music; fans are divided over whether to listen to the more atmospheric "chillstep", or to the more metallic "brostep". The dubstep fandom continues to schism at an alarming rate due to the ever-increasing number of dubstep variants in the current scene.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Where most dubstep tends towards a dark or even harsh tone, Zomboy's music is best described as a mix of wacky Affectionate Parody, beautiful chillstep melodies bordering on Trance, and sudden plunges into speaker-destroying brostep. These shifts happen multiple times mid-song, mind you.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: Well it generally is, as the dubstep scene is mostly filled with indies musicians. Some musicians actively encourage fans to do this.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: While the genre as a whole isn't particularly well-received by fans of heavy music and fans of any genre, the scene is also notable for putting forth some of the most highly acclaimed and pioneering artists in Electronic Music, some of which include the following...
    • Nero, is by far the most respected brostep act, as their debut album, Welcome Reality, received highly positive reviews from critics, rave fan response and stepped up brostep's mainstream popularity up a notch thanks to their constant inclusion in modern media. In fact, they have even produced a song for the soundtrack of the 2013 movie reenactment of The Great Gatsby.
    • Lindsey Stirling has become one in some circles.
    • Excision also gains massive respect from not only dubstep fans but also from fans of heavy music in general, thanks to his furious sound influenced by genres such as brutal death metal and Harsh Noise. This respect led to the sudden bump in popularity of the otherwise obscure "noisestep" genre, ultimately bridging the gap between established heavy Electronic Music styles and experimental subgenres such as noise and industrial and bringing a new, more futuristic vibe to an otherwise stagnant style of music.
    • Zomboy, thanks to his seamless fusion in his songs, is regarded by many as a rising force in brostep.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Dubstep artists often use a wide variety of musical instruments, despite what most people think. Guitars, basses, synthesizers, drums, violins, wind instruments, computer software, theremins and sequencers are commonly used instruments in dubstep, but sometimes artists opt for rather bizarre instrument choices. The use of jackhammers and circuit boards is not unheard of...
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Dubstep artists, especially more modern acts, tend to throw in vocals for whatever reason. Combining vocals with the Sensory Abuse the genre is known for often results to this. The vocal work in Skrillex' "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" is a particularly grating example.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks: A common perception from longtime fans of the genre.
  • Harsh Noise: A very, very big influence to brostep, with artists such as Skrillex, Excision and Kill The Noise being the most blatantly influenced by it. Noisestep artists tend to draw even more inspiration from the genre, leading to some overlap with industrial (especially the power electronics and EBM subsets).
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Many dubstep releases (especially the older ones) tend to be very hard to find; much of the traditional dubstep that still exists today has virtually gone out of print, and new artists rarely release professional studio records, therefore the only practical way of obtaining most dubstep is through file sharing sites. Some artists have taken advantage of this by deliberately releasing albums for free, and making money through other means, such as performing live or selling dubstep-related merch.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: One of the non-metal genres that have crept up in the scale, due to its many similarities (and crossovers) with rock and metal music, and one of the few genres that covers (almost) the entire scale. The lowest reached was with Burial, a 1-2, and the hardest dubstep artist on the scale is an ex-aequo between Kill The Noise, Datsik, Excision and Downlink, all usually having songs residing at levels 10-11.note 
  • Public Medium Ignorance: Anyone who has a passing knowledge of what dubstep is would immediately think of Skrillex upon hearing the word, not knowing that a whole scene of active dubstep musicians exists. This knowledge often reaches Fan Dumb levels as they continue to associate Skrillex with the genre,note  to the point where the rest of the dubstep scene is perecived as irrelevant. This can get particularly grating in some cases, as many music fans now believe that Skrillex is an even better composer than Hans Zimmer, Mozart, or Yoshiki Hayashi simply because Skrillex makes dubstep.
    • Moreover, many people have grown so accustomed to the brostep sound, to the point where they have come to believe that "all dubstep is brostep" or "brostep is the one true dubstep" and shun all other varieties due to not being "filthy" enough.
    • It has gotten progressively worse in recent years, as dubstep continues to displace established electronic music genres such as eurobeat, industrial and trance, to the point where some ignorant listeners have begun calling all forms of electronic music "dubstep". This sounds eerily familiar... Becomes especially annoying to those who still work with non-dubstep electronic genres, especially toward the ends that aren't as "danceable" as brostep (such as psytrance or Goa trance where the point is creating a story of sound, not necessarily being catchy or even danceable - a psytrance song can actually be meant more for contemplation or tripping as opposed to dancing for example)
  • Rearrange the Song: Dubstep musicians frequently rearrange songs from within and outside the genre. Some even go as far as making multiple versions of their own songs.
  • Sensory Abuse- Fans of the brostep and noisestep flavors would add "but in a good way!". Particularly harsh tracks tend to be fondly referred to as "dirty" or "filthy", playing off of those being the next level of grit up from "grungy".
  • The Scrappy: To Electronic Music, at least. For artists, however, Borgore was this, although many successful collaborations with various artists (more emblematically with Miley Cyrus) and his ownership of a very promising electronic-centered label, Buygore, retroactively gave him lots of respect.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: While most dubstep makes use of melodies, they tend to sound more simple in comparison with other Electronic Music genres. This trope comes into play in many "bass drops" where musicality is dropped in favor of rhythmic "wobble" bass riffs. Brostep takes this Up to Eleven by eschewing bass wobbles for heavily distorted riffs reminiscent of industrial music, although there are exceptions: some artists, such as Flux Pavilion and Borgore, subvert this trope, as they keep a certain amount of musicality in the drop. Chillstep artists, and even a handful of brostep artistsnote , however, avert this trope altogether.
  • Trope Codifier: Skream or Skrillex, debates are continuing.
  • Uncommon Time: Usually used in the harder varieties of brostep, such as noisestep and glitchstep, to make the already-harsh drops even more harsh and disorienting. Borgore, Excision and Kill The Noise have made time-signature torture an art form in brostep. Speaking technically and aesthetically, this, combined with the stops and skips, actually forms one of the more innovative aspects of Dubstep, and a major point in the "artistic merit" column. By fluidly warping, stuttering, and halting the actual timing of tracks independently of one another and as a whole, a skilled producer can wrangle a chaotic tangle of dissonant notes into incredibly complex polychord harmonies and meta-rhythms with multiple levels of synchopation and cross-beat. Even wildly experimental genres like Freeform Jazz and the Modernist Period of classical music had only flirted with the idea of a non-unified, non-linear time signature.

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