Bass Culture


I just need to remind you to read whatever Philip Sherburne has to say about electronic dance music. Over the past year, he's written great pieces for The Wire on Vladislav Delay, Ricardo Villalobos (not exactly an easy interview to score), Carl Craig and now Moritz von Oswald of Basic Channel. I've always appreciated the thoughtfulness and care of Philip's descriptions. As someone who ran out of ways to describe a "dope beat" years ago, it's really refreshing to read Philip's attempts to describe sounds that are so ephemeral, othewordly, sensual. From his von Oswald interview in the current issue:

The results extend the molecular feel of previous von Oswald projects -- the vaporous, fizzing sound, a mist of hi-hats and ragged, grainy filters -- while subtracting the underlying pedal tone of dub reggae. A spongy, low-end swell underscores everything, but you can never quite put your finger on it. It's hardly without bass, but freed from song form's tonic hierarchies, this is music without a base.

Actually the reason I started this post was because of this exchange during the Invisible Jukebox (a montly interview feature wherein artists are asked to identify and comment on a random series of records) from the same issue. It made me laugh:

Doug E Fresh and MC Ricky D
"La Di Da Di"
Reality 12" 1985
[MC announces at start of track: "The Human Beatbox, Doug E Fresh"]
Ariel Pink: Doug E Fresh? Yeah, how did I know that? Is this Grime?
Interviewer: This is from 1985.
Ariel Pink: I didn't know they had rap at that time.
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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.
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