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Transnational Dubstep – review

February 16, 2011

Transnational Dubstep

Dubstep is a strange beast. Some believe it to have gone the way of the dinosaurs or of telex machines – extinct but having evolved into other, more highly developed species, much as mammals and birds evolved from earlier reptilian ancestors. Others don’t see it that way, believing it to be thriving, morphing into ever more sub-genres and influencing mainstream music more than ever before. Perhaps these are, in fact, exactly the same thing. As it dies, it creates more life, perpetuating a cycle of death and rebirth.

Here in Croydon, the Cronx, dubstep’s birthplace, the genre has generally been devoid of any such philosophising. However, as dubstep’s bastard offspring spread around the world they breed with other musical species and produce beautiful hybrids that demand some thought, some conceptual framework to explain their existence. Here in the Secret Archives, we’ve long loved musical forms from around the world and we discovered dubstep about three years back (I know, we’re always late…). We’ve been attempting in our own music to bring both ends of our musical interests together but our friends over at Generation Bass have compiled an entire album of amazing, creative, genre-defying music called Transnational Dubstep. They say it’s the first major compilation to document the fusion of dubstep and global roots music and its fifteen tracks show influences from all over the globe, from the Balkans to China, from India to Japan and the Middle East – and there’s even some Cumbia bringing some South American flavours to the mix.

So, is there a unifying force that has brought these disparate artists and styles together? I’m not sure there is, other than the enthusiasm of people like DJ Umb and his Generation Bass musical partner Vincent Koreman. They’ve found that artists all over the world are paying no attention to genre boundaries and are blending traditional musical forms from their own cultures and others with cutting edge electronica and transnational dubstep is the result. The tracks on this eminently listenable album are certainly eclectic in their sources but the overall collection works incredibly well as a continuous listening experience.

There are some highlight tracks for me: Shem‘s Only Human opens with what sounds like a Santoor or a Qanoon and then brings in some utterly filthy squelchy wobble. Yeah! Engine Earz Experiment‘s Kaliyuga has been around for a little while but sounds as destructively awesome now as when I first heard it some months back. It has an immensely catchy riff that leads into some beautifully raspy bass synth lines while staying evocatively melodic. Undertow in G# by Alexis K features a menacing bass drone over some beautiful broken beats. There’s some head-nodding sufi dub from Celt Islam with Dub Reflex, featuring tablas over a grooving steppers riddim (this we like!) and Dub Gabriel -produced Salahadeen by Jajouka Soundsystem (real trance music!) brings in some chilled dubby Moroccan flavours – this we also like very much.

The other tracks are just as good as these – this compilation is cherry picked from a vast repertoire of tunes that have passed through DJ Umb‘s Generation Bass network of DJs, producers and musicians. Top work, Mr Umb. Well done, too, to Six Degrees Records for being willing to take a chance on a niche album and for releasing it on CD as well as a download. Some of us like to hear our music properly!


  1. India Sleeping – Mars
  2. Kaliyuga – Engine Earz Experiment
  3. Undertow in G# – Alexis K
  4. Rude Profile – Fleck & Fish Finger
  5. Cumbia Dub – Knowa Knowone
  6. Clownie – Innamorati
  7. Valium Gitan – SaBat’ Machines
  8. Only Human – Shem
  9. Kamikaze – Dysphemic
  10. Shiva Step – Barbarix
  11. Bukkake – Syndaesia
  12. Bhangra Fever – Midival Punditz
  13. Brown Skin Beauty (Liquid Stranger Remix) – Bandish Projekt
  14. Dub Reflex – Celt Islam
  15. Salahadeen – Jajouka Soundsystem
One Comment leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 11:24 am

    There’s an interview with DJ Umb about this project here:

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