scuba – process part 195



SCUBA

I’ve spent the most of the last 2 months trying to explain myself to people. That’s the problem with doing an album: with singles, people tend to assume it’s a mindless dancefloor exercise but as soon as you make a long player, you need a vision or they suspect that this supposed artist isn’t quite deserving of the title. The problem with musical visions is that even if you’re lucky enough to have one, they’re not always the easiest to articulate. Hazards litter the road, from pitfalls of prog rock concept pompousness to narcotic-fuelled free jazz insanity, and it can seem impossible to pick a coherent route between being perceived as a psychedelic flower-arranging communist to an over-analysing under-qualified academic.

Having swatted away questions about my opaquely-titled first album, the actual meaning of which not being something I had any interest in discussing in public, I made the decision early on that I wouldn’t lay any verbal traps for myself with this record. The title pretty straightforwardly refers to the three musical inputs that went into the writing process, one of which wasn’t there at all when I sat down to what I hoped would be, at most, a six-month process last January. The fact that I didn’t send the album to mastering until December was partly due to my own convoluted work flow but also thanks to the discovery of the third input, the series of Autonomic podcasts by DBridge and Instra:mental.

Admitting influence from something contemporary can be problematic, of course. The obvious one is the assumption that “influence” really means ripping off. There are countless examples of that, including the pertinent example of the invasion of Dubstep by producers of bad music from other genres, and it’s pretty easy to spot it happening. But the main thing that struck me with Autonomic wasn’t something entirely tangible, it was more of an attitude than anything stylistic that could be directly copied. It was a real sense of freedom which came through most nakedly in the influences sections of each podcast, but was also very much present in the mixes of new material that were the main point to the whole exercise.

Of course there was also the fact that something new and interesting was being done with what was ostensibly drum n bass. Having been heavily into that whole thing in the mid-late 90s, when nights like Innovation still had a little bit of that original rave atmosphere to them, the obvious creative cul-de-sac of the last few years has been depressing for me and led a lot more people to give up on it entirely. The notion of 170bpm slow jams, the polar opposite of the latter-day dnb kick/snare quest, was almost perverse and yet seemed to make perfect sense. Interestingly, it was partly the influence of another contemporary trend that led the authors of Autonomic down that path in the first place. DBridge has talked about how the attitude of the earlier Dubstep scene reminded him about why he started making music in the first place, not so much in a stylistic way but more in the approach to making music – regaining the freedom to discard the rules and constraints that can be so suffocating when making club music.

One stylistic element of Autonomic that did resonate with me was the use of melody. I had a conversation with DBridge midway through the year after being completely blown away by a track which turned out to be one of his. It sounded like something from the soundtrack to a movie starring Cory Feldman in 1985, and I said to him: “I’ve always wanted to make music like this but I’ve never had the balls to do it”. This track is partly a reaction to that conversation. I always find it difficult to talk about specific bits of my output, but this is the continuation of something that has been in my music since I first started writing when I was a teenager, but has never really been able to come out much in my releases. There are traces of it in an early Scuba track, Harpoon, and also in a track on the first album, From Within. But it’s very disguised in even those tracks. Fundamentally, it’s the idea that melody isn’t something that needs to be hidden, which is quite ironic since I’m currently in danger of being typecast as being a techno obsessive, something which wouldn’t always be associated with melodic freedom.

But in fact, restraint is actually one of the most important factors in creating anything. Knowing when to stop is crucial, whether it’s when you find yourself thinking more about compressing the kick drum than the whole atmosphere of the track or when that atmosphere has rendered any possibility of encouraging the listener to dance impossible. Then again, without experimentation it’s hard to learn anything at all.

scuba – process part 195 (6th form) by modyfier

21 comments on “scuba – process part 195”

  1. A very interesting insight into Scuba; somebody who has been extremely influential on me and the 'dubstep' scene as a whole. The man has an amazing ear in both his own music and the selections he procures for the HotFlush label.I find it curious that he associates his music with a lack of melody however. One can understand this stance when looking at his older works like Thank U, and Plate however the more recent releases such as Speak seem to show a shift towards more melodic styles.Thanks for sharing this, very eager to hear how Triangulation is going to sound especially after this additional insight from Scuba himself.

  2. honest and interesting read. really looking forward to the new album. enjoying the jimmy edgar intro on autonomic podcast #1, not sure how i missed this series. i like a willingness to use restrained melody. i read in that tobias rapp book that on the scenario ep klock & dettmann released both scenario & blank scenario as they were divided over the melodic version which klock favoured. melody is a bit like marmite i guess.

  3. This is such a lovley DnB track! Love it really!

  4. why is he giving this away?love it just think its too special to give away for free…big lovekokeshi

  5. Having the balls to set yourself free from the constraints of one particular genre is the biggest step in any Artists life, look at Martyn for example. Great article, good luck to you.

  6. Good stuff, can't hear the tune cos work blocks it but I hear what you're saying about Autonomic. It really is the most refreshing sound NOT because of the sounds. The abstract feeling of something that runs through the podcasts has inspired me to make music more than any particular track, sample, melodies etc..Look forward to hearing the new album…

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  9. Something Very interesting stuff…..Alex

  10. Thanks a lot for sharing this article about SCUBA. I would like to read few more articles from you.

  11. Nice post, really enjoyed it. Sounded smooth and nicely produced

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