29 April 2006


I think Woebot's comment about my mix being an "array of exclusives and dubplates" needs some clarification. In the traditional sense, a dubplate is a one-off acetate disc, created at a specialist cutting studio. I wouldn't want anyone thinking I'd taken that step yet! In this day and age, where audio is easily copied and burned by digital means, going to the expense of cutting an acetate must be seen as an aesthetic decision on the part of the dj who endorses such an approach. Either they prefer the sound of a properly mastered dub, or they prefer the 'feel' of it, or perhaps they're drawn to a spiritual connection with a tradition spanning many decades .

From a purely sound-based perspective, I still generally prefer the sound of vinyl, but not that much more. If I was regularly playing out at clubs, and needed to consider what was suitable for soundsystem requirements, I reckon I'd definitely go down the acetate route too. But as I'm primarily recording mixes for MP3 download, where the results will probably be listened to on standard home audio equipment, PC speakers or iPod ear buds, it really doesn't matter. Regarding the 'feel' of the dubplate, its true that vinyl is nice to mix with, although some records respond to touch differently from others, creating subtle variations that one must adjust to. CD-Rs, on the other hand, always respond in exactly the same way. And now that I've started to get used to the feel of my Numark CD-J, I find its a perfectly satisfactory tool for mixing with. I'm now getting some really accurate results with it. In fact, I'm gonna buy another one, cos I like it so much!

So you can consider me officially 'pro-CD-R' from now on. And whilst there will be those who scoff at such a notion, I consider my cd-rs as dubplates of the modern age. They do exactly the same job, just much cheaper and easier to create!

But where are all my cd-r dubs coming from? I don't receive any exclusive material from the 'big' players in the dubstep scene. I don't ask and they don't offer. But I do get sent a significant amount of material from lesser known, usually unsigned, producers. I'm not sure quite when all this started, I guess it must've been over a year ago that the first demos started trickling into my inbox or arriving on my doormat. I consider these to be very important and I actually prefer the idea of discovering new talent rather than reinforcing the work of the established 'name producers', who are well catered for elsewhere. I discovered Boxcutter in this way, and who knows what else might come my way? The weird thing is that I now find that at least 50% of my listening time is dedicated to unreleased music. I like to share what I'm hearing, which is the reason for investing in the cd-r decks. Its all about pushing the new talent, now. As a mark of my respect for all the producers out there who feed me their tunes, here's a few examples of the sort of things I receive...

Wedge Dubz

A 6-track cd-r from DJ Wedge, of Dark FM infamy. Wedge is now a fully paid-up member of the H.E.N.C.H. crew, the West Country's very own collective of FWD-thinking producers, and I have high hopes for them all.

Bass Clef Dubz

The second selection received from Mr. Bass Clef. 8 tracks, revealing an even more sparse, dubwise sound, including a new version of "Welcome To Echo Chamber". Interesting fact: Bass Clef composes and records all his music using hardware gear! He also sent me a wonderful reggae mix that he recorded live at home. I enjoyed it so much I arranged for it to be placed online at Smokering. Check it out!

Forensics Dubs

Jesus, I've lost count of the amount of cd-rs that Forensics (aka Krys from Ruffnek Discotek) has sent me. A lot of his stuff is like a learning process, and I think he sends out more than he needs to. But its getting better. The above 4-track selection is called the "Deadstep" EP, an almost perfect description of Krys' vibeless, ungroovy constructions. But when he brings in a little hook, like the low string melody on "Warm Storm", the vibe is instantly elevated. You need things like that to keep people listening, otherwise its just a joyless procession of computerised beats plodding away without purpose. I'm persevering with Krys, cos I reckon he's gonna turn an important corner very soon. You can check loads of Krys' beats here, and read his new blog here.

White Boi Dubz

More H.E.N.C.H. exclusives, this time from the White Boi, which he handed to me at Noir last month. Some big tunes on this one. I'm gathering as many H.E.N.C.H. dubs as I can right now. I've got a few from Headhunter and J@kes as well, plus the promise of some tunes from new member Komonazmuk. These guys are like a dream come true for me - a genuinely impressive collective of Bristol-based dubstep producers who just seem to be oozing with quality beats. Big-up Wedge for bringing all this to my attention via his radio show.

Secret Agent Gel Dubz

Top marks for presentation go to Secret Agent Gel, who's been busy developing his own delicious brand of dubstep innovation from his remote outpost in Pennsylvania, USA. The latest batch arrived just this week and once again the results are highly impressive. Stardom beckons...

Upstart Dubz

A lot of material comes to me over the internet, either single tracks as e-mail attachments, or links to secret URLs where the tracks are hosted, or zipped folders sent via Yousendit. If I think the tunes are usable, I burn my own digital dubplate, as in the latest example above which comes from a new producer called Upstart. Look out for him on future GutterFMs!

Hotflush Dubz

Very occasionally I might receive something like this - an advance cd-r of forthcoming music from a record label, in this case Hotflush Recordings. This arrived back last month and contains two Skuba EPs and one from luke.envoy, which I've been putting to good use. Obviously, in an ideal world I'd prefer test-pressings, but I appreciate that would be a much more expensive option for them, and I'm just grateful that Paul Rose considered it worth his while to send me this cd-r.

Thanks to all producers and labels who send me stuff. Its always appreciated!