First the beat was dequantized: unsnapped from the tyranny of the grid. Then it was obliterated: broken down and denatured almost until the point of unrecognizability. In the former case, I’m thinking of course of UK dubstep, wonky et al. In the latter, mainly footwork and a recently emergent branch of “instrumental” hip-hop that, for the time being at least, remains nameless.
On second thought, perhaps that “instrumental” doesn’t belong in scare quotes after all. Because it’s not just the lack of vocals that characterizes this kind of music, but the use of the Monome, Roland SP-404, and other similarly tactile MIDI controllers and digital samplers. What these instruments do is allow for the reintroduction of a certain kind of mutant organicism into the production/performance process.
Not everyone’s interested, of course. For a lot of people, electronica still means precision. That’s true even of an MPC magician like AraabMuzik, I think. When I saw him play live recently, the music was so relentless, so utterly mind-and-body numbing in its regularity, that I found myself retreating into a side-room after only about 20 minutes: that was all I could take. But look at this. Or this. Artists like Melbourne’s Galapagoose, L.A.’s aaronmaxwell, and Brighton’s Warm Thighs have taken the sampler and used it to extricate hip-hop from the groove — or at least to drastically modify our relationship with it anyway.