Joy Orbison - "The Shrew Would Have Cushioned the Blow" (Sub:Stance)
Paul Rose’s monthly DJ residence at Berlin’s infamous Berghain may be celebrated as a dubstep night, but the tag isn’t entirely accurate. Since he started Sub:Stance in July 2008, Rose — who DJs, produces, and runs Hotflush recordings as Scuba — has used the event as a vehicle for the more adventurous of dubstep’s factions, shying away from the wobbly, homogenized “brostep” that now litters the genre and steering more toward the techno hybrid that has crystallized in the last two years. Patrick Masterson discussed the direction while reviewing Scuba’s recently-released sophomore full-length, Triangulation — the title itself alluding to the three musical fundamentals that most influence Rose’s sound: techno/house, dubstep, and drum ‘n bass. And with that synthesis in mind, Scuba offers a mix for Berghain mother-label Ostgut Ton that best represents Sub:Stance, highlighting some of dubstep’s more exciting trajectories in the process.
The fact that such a statement comes from Berlin and not London speaks to how dubstep has proliferated. Rose himself is originally from London, though he relocated to Berlin in 2007 while recording his debut full-length, A Mutual Antipathy. By that point, dubstep was already a popular ticket in the city; Rose just capitalized by convincing the Ostgut Ton folks to let him start a night at Berghain — currently a worldwide capital for techno. They agreed, and to a Friday night slot at that. I’ve never been to the club, but I imagine that’s a pretty big deal — not only for the high-profile placing, but also for the legitimacy that the move lent dubstep’s faithful.
Recorded using turntables and a mixer, “as at the party itself,” Sub:Stance attempts to peek into Berghain’s interior during a typical Scuba set. He weaves in a diverse crowd: from Joy Orbison’s earth-moving cuts, to the weighty ambiance of Sigha and Airhead, to Scuba’s own heaving grooves. Rather than hinging on tension and big bass release, Sub:Stance relies on fluid mixing, morphing and mutating through Roses’ tweaks. The approach rewards deep listening, though the energy doesn’t always seem like it would translate to a capacity crowd of 1,500 club-goers trying to get down. Judging from the ongoing success of the event though, I’m probably wrong about that assumption.
What Sub:Stance does provide is an eclectic check-up on one of the most dynamic sounds in electronic music right now. It encompasses so many aesthetics that I’ve found especially captivating lately: Instra:mental’s lascivious DnB; Joker’s woozy, synth-led funk; Untold’s skeletal house; and even dubstep forefather Mala’s infectious bounce. As these various styles coalesce and dubstep continues to mature outside of its London home at the hands of folks like Scuba, there’s no telling what a Vol. 2 mix of Sub:Stance might sound like in another year’s time.