Dusky on the "Past, Present, and Future" of Electronic Dance Music
Being the electronic music geeks that we are here at Crossfade, we've been following the "post-dubstep" confluence of house and bass music in the UK with major interest for some time now. Influences from jungle, drum 'n' bass, UK garage, and other styles are seeping into house's four-on-the-floor mold, injecting new life into a genre that was growing tiredly derivative.
Ben UFO, George FitzGerald, Skream and T. Williams are just a few of the trend's exponents that we've spoken to in the past. And another exemplary act making big waves across the Atlantic right now is DJ-production duo Dusky, dubbed "the toast of the UK underground" by Resident Advisor at the height of their meteoric rise last year.
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So what exactly is the sound of the UK underground?
"I don't think it's definable, and if it was, it would be boring," Dusky's Nick Harriman tells Crosfade. "That's where the beauty and intrigue lies. It's inherently in a constant state of flux, just like the fashion world -- things change incredibly quickly. You can trace its roots to various points in history, various cultures, like the Jamaican sound systems. But the past isn't definitive -- it's equally as much about the present and the future."
Indeed, the past, present and future of UK electronic dance music are intertwined into a single living, breathing thing -- what music historians call the UK hardcore continuum, or the evolving lineage of styles from acid house through hardcore, jungle, drum 'n' bass, UK garage, dubstep and beyond. Each generation of producers since the '80s has been acutely aware of the one before it, building on the foundations of the past, while moving in the direction of the future. And Dusky are no exception.
"Though we were both heavily into drum 'n' bass, garage, and hardcore when we first met, I think our general interest in music of all forms is what bought us together, and has continued to nourish our working relationship and friendship," Harriman explains. "Dance music was everywhere in London in the '90s, when we were growing up, as it still is now. It's been woven into the fabric of British society since the late '80s, so it's impossible to avoid its influence. As fans of electronic music, we both embraced dance culture and it's helped form who we are as artists today."
And it's not just UK house producers like Dusky taking their cues from bass music these days. You even have former dubstep producers like Skream and Pearson Sound embracing house. This cross-pollination of sounds has made the dance music scene on the other side of the pond an enviably fertile and diverse one. DJs are no longer purist one-trick ponies playing one repetitive style -- they pick and choose from many.
"The evolution of the dubstep scene has had a lot to do with [it]," says the other half of Dusky, Alfie Granger-Howell. "It seems to me that certain producers and DJs were getting harder and harder, and more and more extreme and gimmicky, until there was nowhere else to go, and that has led to the scene morphing drastically, eventually reaching a point where it now bears hardly any resemblance to the original sound and philosophy. That encouraged a lot of the producers, DJs and listeners to explore different avenues, and once people started doing that, it in turn greatly influenced the house and techno scene."