There’s a vocal sample laid over the recent track “Too Slow” by Boston dubstep producer Moldy that essentially lays out his overarching musical thesis: “People like you, I think, are starting to realize there’s too much speed in the system,” a voice intones over the clipping percussion, languorous rhythm, and minimal sound architecture. “There’s too much busyness and it’s time to find, or get back to, that lost art of slower rhythms,” it says, just before the deep bass pulse comes in. It’s a much different style of dubstep than how the genre has come to be understood, and Moldy is trying to dial things back.
Moldy, a.k.a. Ennis Glendon, 33, a Portland, Maine, native, now living in Brighton, says the concept is in keeping with what early adopters of the style, like himself and “American dubstep ambassador” Joe Nice, have been saying all along. “Bass, pace, and space” is how Nice, founder of New York City’s ahead-of-the-curve Dub War club night, typically describes it in most interviews he’s done over the years. This amounts to pulling back on the tempo of the tracks, and providing room for the bass to take the lead without too much extraneous noise muddying things, Glendon explains.
Glendon will release his latest 12-inch, “Regenerate (Death of Brostep)”/“Bad Habits (Brixton VIP),” this week on Brooklyn’s Tuba Records, and perform at the Wonder Bar in Allston on March 26, after dates in New York City and Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest music conference.
The former track harks back to the earlier, more minimalist days of dubstep; it’s extremely pensive, almost nothing happens for large stretches — a far cry from the frenetic whirlwind of clatter that now defines the form. “It’s jokingly referring to ‘brostep’ being like the real aggressive sound, which is what people equate dubstep with at this point,” Glendon says. “The stuff you hear on car commercials, and whatnot.
“That’s not what we were trying to do when dubstep started. It got to the point where it was lowest common denominator and it blew it up.” These negative associations have made it awkward for him to identify as a dubstep DJ, he jokes. “But that’s not the sound I represent. I represent the old guard.” He began experimenting with dubstep around 2005 after being heavily into drum-and-bass and jungle for years.
“Moldy was living in New York in the days when a small number of DJs got into the dubstep sound,” David Quintiliani, another Dub War founder, explains. “Moldy was one of the earliest US DJs to play at the night [in 2005]. There were really only a handful of US guys making dubstep back then, and even fewer who were making good dubstep. Moldy was among the best producers working at 140 bpm with big deep sub-bass back then, so he played at Dub War on and off over its five-year run.”
“To me, the change of tempo brought a lot of new ideas. All the producers at the time in dubstep, each had their own influences,” Glendon says. “If you heard a dubstep set, you’d hear a huge variety of sounds, the reggae sound, techno sound, heavy metal sound, like a whole variety. So for me, it’s about like bringing back that vibe from the way I felt when I first heard jungle. In a lot of ways I’m still trying to chase that feeling.”
Like “Regenerate (Death of Brostep),” for example, which he calls “so minimal, anti-chainsaw, anti-aggression. As I was writing it I was just trying to show the core values of dubstep.”
The song, like its accompanying B-side, is actually a couple years old, when it originally got play on the radio show of hugely influential British DJ Mary Anne Hobbs. Bouncing around from label to label delayed its release on vinyl until now.
“I titled it several years ago,’’ said Glendon, “but it’s kind of fitting that it’s coming out now, and brostep actually is dead. Trap has taken over, now that’s the hyped-up high-energy sound that kids are listening to. The brostep thing has run its course.”
Moldy’s new form has found him experimenting with varying tempos outside of the typical 140 bpm dubstep spectrum, slowing things down even further to around 115 bpm, but maintaining a similar palette of sounds.
“Moldy's sound has maintained the same anxious, eerie, perverse sensibility that it always has, which has an impact on people on a dance floor that is hard to describe without witnessing it firsthand,” Quintiliani adds.
“Bad Habits (Brixton VIP)” is a more up-tempo track, however, showing some carry-over from the frenetic percussion of the drum-and-bass Moldy got his start producing in the late ’90s. The concept of slowing down persists all the same.
“Slowing it down is creating more space,” he explains. “It’s more breathing room for elements. That’s also what part of the allure of early dubstep was, there’s all this space.”
Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.