Sunday, August 11

So, what is it that we do?

This is the question that I am most often asked these days.  What type of music do you make?  Where does it fit in?  Which scene are you part of?  All very valid questions that people want to know the answers to.

People from a drum & bass background often still think of what we do as part of their scene, where as people who are part of other scenes and have never been involved or paid much attention to drum & bass, definitely do not. So where is our place in all of this?  It seems like some kind of grey area; a limbo of sorts.

In reality, it's a tough one to answer.  Tempo alone should not define a style of music.  If this were the case, that would mean anything at 140bpm would be considered dubstep and say anything at 90bpm, considered hip-hop.  Just two examples, but the first two that came to mind.  This means that what we do should not be considered drum & bass because of it's tempo.

Originally, I was part of Autonomic, which came about from a lack of creativity and wanting to do something new with drum & bass.  The tempo sat firmly at 170 or below and never went above that threshold.  Over the years, well, since 2009 to be exact, other artists involved in this movement (I'll refer to it as that, rather than a scene) have left for pastures new, or returned to pastures old.  I felt there was so much more to explore and do with this, so I carried on with Auxiliary, introducing new artists and honing our craft collectively, to create something new in it's entirety.

People have labelled it Autonomic, Minimal Drum & Bass, 170, Microfunk, you name it, but what we do now can't really be classified as any of those terms.  When I introduced what I called 'phase 2' (signified by the text on AUX007) of the label and the podcast, that was to signal the intent of exactly that - the next phase of Auxiliary.  Gone were the fast drum & bass like rhythms from earlier releases, replaced with 85bpm slower dubbier grooves. Going back to those terms mentioned, 170 is still the closest, but that's mainly because it's double the tempo that we are mainly writing at (85).  The 170 term is also used as a blanket term for any type of drum & bass that isn't considered your usual club/DJ stuff, which adds further confusion to the argument.

I also feel it's not fair to label this as drum & bass and it's very misleading.  When I think of drum & bass, I think of labels like Metalheadz, Moving Shadow, Subtitles etc.  Labels that put out (or used to) the epitome of what is considered 'drum & bass'.  That being, heavy basslines and fast breaks at 170bpm or above - usually, about 174-175.  So when you look at it objectively, labelling a piece of music on Auxiliary as drum & bass, when it's 85bpm, 4/4, no breakbeats, with the only thing linking it being it's origins and the fact it would sit in a mix at similar tempos to drum & bass, it seems quite redundant.

So to summarise, I'm not really sure what I'd call what we do.  I guess the closest term I can come up with is Electronica, harking back to 90's melodic IDM stuff.  It's a tough scenario to offer a decisive answer to and I definitely don't want to be seen as someone who's inventing genre names, as that usually leads to nothing good.  To answer the other questions I brought up earlier, we are pretty much our own scene these days.  Not to sound elitist, but there's no one else doing the type of music we are doing.  It may fit in with stuff other labels put out, but we're very much out there on our own doing our own thing.  I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this, as there are many pros and cons to be had from analysing it. 

I guess terms and genres aside, we'll just continue to do what we do and worry about names later,  I guess at least we aren't calling it Night Bus or Future Trap, huh Beatport? ;)


Julian Bond said...

Where do you think your audience should listen to it? Where do you listen to it?

It seems to me that it works well with a few close friends, sitting, drinking round a kitchen table on a Sat night. The problem is that very, very few of us have a Funktion One system in their kitchen! There aren't even many clubs with the required comfort and intimacy AND a sound system with the bass weight to really do the sound justice.

It's a puzzle.

ASC said...

It's a tough one. It works well in many settings, but like with any music, it will only sound as good as the PA does.

justin james said...

when trying to describe this sound to others, I call it "Bass & Drum" and that seems to connect well

alley cat said...

cool stuff James..totally agree

menino azul said...

hey james, it's ed from leeds uk, think this is a good place to reconnect, having sold you records and supported your early releases over the counters of wayahead (defunct),crash & jumbo records, i think i'm well placed in that respect and in my ongoing passion for d'n'b.

i actually picked this thread up originally from a doc scott tweet.

in my opinion:genres are for marketing and peeps will always try and package things to sell. music is music, regardless of genre/style/function. i think the reason d'n'b is so highly regarded (still!!)is the production values that pushed all factions of uk based music forward.

the fact you are making music in your current 'style'is indicative of what makes d'n'b so special: it takes in many 'styles' to make new 'styles'. the keen production values that have made it what it is is still moving forward and influencing other generations of producers.

i don't usually go for absolutes, but when i read about some young whipper snapper (see latest issue of wire magazine)proclaiming d'n'b's legacy, it's great to hear the culture is still vital and important-whatever it mutates into, we know the foundation.

keep experimenting, that's what it's all about!

ASC said...

Ed! Great to hear from you after all these years. Drop me an email and fill me in on what you are upto these days. asc(at)auxiliarymusic(dot)com

Dan said...

I think one of the main problems for giving your music a genre is how it gets to market. I'd love to say I keep up with all your music but I often can't so I will rely on online retailers and their 'drum & bass' sections where I will find your records. Being a longstanding drum & bass lover who now has matured to your sound, I still look in the same old places for my vinyl fix!

Matt Carroll said...

Think of it like "Ambient Techno" in the early 90s. It wasn't really appropriate, but close enough. It only got renamed when it had some commercial success, and what it got renamed to - IDM - was hated by the creators.

Post a Comment