December 15, 2007

Freaks like us


My end of year round-up for Fact, written a while back, and a bit out of date since it doesn't include Bassline House, which would have fitted well into the vocal science/ electropop thread I was following and celebrating. There's a Bassline remix of 'Slave 4 U' doing the rounds as it happens. What's great about Blackout is the way that Britney seems to enjoy and acclerate her dis-integration as an organic individual - the record, like the media coverage, is a 'piece of her', a fragment of a distributed, mostly simulated, hyperbody, exhibited in a cyberspatial freakshow.

Freakery is also a fixation of Bassline. In much US R&B (most famously, Adina Howard's 'Freak Like Me') 'freak' is a euphemism for sex. In Bassline, 'freak' seems to indicate a mode of electro-libido, a cartoonish exuberance, that has little to do with genitality. In its sensibility if not its sound, Bassline has far more in common with the getting-stupid twisted clown face of Funkadelia than the moody screwface of hip hop. TS7 and TRC's 'Circus Freak' is perfectly titled: like much classic Rave, Bassline's (un)natural environment seems to be the fairground as much as the dancefloor. If you listen to the Pure TS7 mix uploaded by Smugpolice - a massive shout of appreciation for Continuum for these uploads - much of it sounds like the melted angles, pulses and bleeps of a wibbly wobbly weird amusement park. Bassline relishes the Fruity Looped Freakish absurdity of the Hardcore Continuum - the result is more often than not a sound that is more abstract and experimental than anything that can be achieved under the oppressive, self-conscious glares of studiedly morose young men. One thing I enjoy about Bassline is the almost catatonic quality of some of the vocals, a welcome alternative to the vibrato-heavy straining of X-Factor-style emoting. Like 'Heartbroken', Zoe's 'Lately' (probably my favourite Bassline track to date) is characterised by the contrast between the subdued sadness of the vocal and the barrel-organ carny momentum, the oozing exhilaration, of the backing.


At the same time, another thing that I enjoy about Bassline is the way that it has repotentiated Grime and Dubstep. It's done that by effectively re-establishing a Garage mainstream. Grime and Dubstep always felt like dead ends - but that ceases to be the case when there is a pop alternative for them to play off, when there is a Garage mainstream which they can pass in and out of - one of my favourite Bassline tracks at the moment is DJ Q's remix of Dizzee's 'Flex'. Grime has been bedeviled by comparisons with US hip hop; but if it is drawn out of its skunk-fugged cul-de-sac and back into the Garage continuum, it avoids seeming like some bargain basement version of rap.

Posted by mark at December 15, 2007 12:16 PM | TrackBack