Sometime in 2007 a subsection of dubstep broke cover and headed off in a new direction. Starting in Bristol, it shot over the Channel and headed for the middle ground between itself and Berlin, to unite in a shared love of Jamaican bass, delay and space with a little Detroit groove. Dubstep Allstars 6, mixed by Appleblim, is perhaps the definitive and most coherent document of this outbreak.
In essence the mix brings together many of the pioneers of this sound, from Bristol's Peverelist, RSD, Pinch, Komanazmuk and Appleblim, and blends in the fellow sonically if not geographically contiguous experimenters, such as Martyn, TRG, 2562 and Ramadanman. It is expertly mixed, selected and arranged such that it soon feels like a whole, as if the lines between the tracks, not to mention the moods, reference points or genres, are rendered meaningless.
While currently and originally a Bristolian, Appleblim spent some time in London in '94. It was to prove influential: the one really, as he himself puts it, in his usual enthusiastic tone. We just caught the bug: listening to the radio, finding out what was going on and picking up our first jungle tunes. Like many of dubstep's pioneers, be it Loefah, Burial or Kode9, Appleblim had caught the jungle bug and through it, developed a love of dub, bass and dark spaces that would keep him in good stead later. He learned to mix on a mate's set of decks but thought little more of it. In fact the world might not have known more of Appleblim were he have not discovered a club called Forward>>, later to be recognized as the birthplace of dubstep, and a friend called Shackleton.
Appleblim and Shackleton shared a love of two things: percussive 2004 era dubstep like Digital Mystikz Conference. (later released on Soul Jazz) and Berlin's Burial Mix, the most overtly dubby label of the techy German bass and space pioneers, Basic Channel. Together Appleblim and Shackleton formed the unique Skull Disco label, which became best known for releasing Shackleton's, uniquely dark, paranoid and organic percussion jams. But while Shackleton was gaining recognition as a producer of uncompromising vision, Appleblim was quietly working on his direction as a DJ. I'm not a creator in the same kind of way [as producer Shackleton], he explains. I'm more the person who carries tapes and records around to people's houses, being the one sat next to the stereo going oi, check out this! That's what I feel like I'm still doing now. Dubstep Allstars6: welcome to Appleblim's personal stereo.
At the beginning of 2007, Appleblim, like many of the headz who have attended the club religiously only to turn into participants, got asked to play at the very space that had inspired him and Shackeleton, Forward>>. It's very strange going from being a raver who was there obsessively down the front to going to someone standing behind the decks. It's definitely an honor: I've had countless epiphanies down there, so if I can give people a few of those then that's my job done.
While he plays down the role of sets in Bath where he first met fellow Bristolians Pinch, Peverelist and Blazey, and also the Skull Disco parties in Stoke Newington, Appleblim cites his opportunity to play at Forward>> as a turning point in his DJing. Before that, I'd felt I'd either tried to fit too many or the wrong style into my sets. But I made a conscious decision, and Sarah had told me to do this too, to stick to my guns. By taking Ammunition's words as firepower, Appleblim found the trajectory you now find on this CD.
Perhaps techno, like hardcore, will never die. Early dubsteppers were as influenced by it as the UK garage scene the genre grew out of, be it Horsepower and El-B's love of Basic Channel, Artwork's blatant Jeff Mills influence on Basic G or the warm tech of DJ Abstract's Touch. But certainly the case that Detroit and Euro techno's influence on dubstep had at least moved to the background before Appleblim and friends began to gather momentum.
Now an entire sub-movement seems to be gathering pace underneath the dubstep umbrella. The boundaries between dubby techno and techy dubstep seem to have dissolved. The critical question is, however, will the upshot be more than or less than the sum of its parts? Are we headed for 'dubstep' sets that are little more than rigid 140bpm techno? Will it become totally clean formless e-lead headspace, with the edge, the rude awakening of the urban bass injection lost? Appleblim is unconcerned.
"I think there's a lot of genre blurring going on, he explains and there is a sort of a danger that it will become 140bpm techno, but the answer is [that] it needs to retain some funk and swing. Having said that I try to just view great music as great music, and always have, so that I might play a tune by a 'dubstep' producer that sounds essentially like a "techno" tune... in the end, if it moves you it moves you..."
On Dubstep Allstars 6, it's certainly got your organs in motion, both your feet and your heart. Built around two emotional peaks, first the early glory of Pinch's brave diva house dubstep "Get Up", and towards the end, Martyn's warm and synthy anthem, 'Broken Hearts remix.'
"I wanted the mix to be a representation of what I play in the clubs, a mixture of unreleased exclusive dubplates and some big tunes that I helped to break... I was amongst the first to play [some of] these tunes out, and wanted to give more exposure to tracks that I really think are phenomenal."
"Obviously it's a bit of a cliché to start mellow and work upwards but I find it works for me: the harder tracks have much more impact if you have played some spacious, deeper, more 'head' music first. I like to build a set, not always start with bangers. I like to create an atmosphere."
-Martin Clark aka Blackdown