When dubstep first exploded from the shadows of dark, filthy, sweat-drenched, underground raves into the neon daylight of mainstream radio chart top 40s and television montages, many believed it to be a short lived all-pervasive fad that would disappear into the ether as quickly as it arrived, never to be seen again – like turkey twizzlers, MCAT, Carol Vodermann and Tamagotchis. Fans of the drum ‘n’ bass/garage/reggae/dance highbred saw it as a revolution, another turning point in bass culture.
Reality usually falls somewhere between these polarised opinions; the direction this music phenomenon will take is still uncertain. The last two to three years have seen the initial fascination with dubstep followed by mainstream acceptance – the next stage, presumably, will see the permeation of that now familiar sound into even more areas of music.
‘Holdin’ On’ by Monsta has taken the raw signature beat of a traditional dubstep track and blended it with a stripped-down soul vibe but with a distinctly pop element. Could this be the future of dubstep? Skrillex (of the more hardcore end of the spectrum) certainly thinks so, he said: “This is not your typical dubstep. A lot of that has already become cliché. This [‘Holdin’ On’] is next-level.”
The song has a heavy Flux Pavilion-type rhythm with a soulful techno vocal that would not be out of place on a Moby track. The reverb that kicks in after the bass intro has a kind of mod trip-hop feel recognisable on Massive Attack, Death In Vegas, Stereo MCs and U.N.K.L.E tracks. There is one little cliché though – the auto-tuned ‘Smurf’ vocal made famous by Kanye West, that clashes with the overall classy production.
Monsta will be signed to Skrillex’s new label, Owsla, as part of a hand-picked stable of up-and-coming artists. Skrillex was an instant fan of Monsta, saying: “I was at South by Southwest with my manager Tim [Smith] and a few friends. Tim says, ‘I got something,’ and pulls up [Monsta’s ‘Holdin’ On’]. I said, ‘That’s a sick track and a cool vocal sample. Where’d they get that from? Is that Aretha Franklin?’”
It’s not an Aretha sample; there are no samples on this track at all – which for this genre is groundbreaking in itself. In fact it is Bryn Christopher’s own warm and powerful (if not slightly androgynous) voice. The vocals were written and recorded by the group (consisting of Christopher and producers Rufio and Rocky) using live instruments, synths and original beats.
The yet untitled EP has already been included in Billboard Magazine’s 40 Hottest Releases in 2012 and Zane Lowe’s New Hype anthem plus Eddy Temple-Morris personally invited Monsta to play a Secret Garden Party. Skrillex is due to remix ‘Holdin’ On’ himself and given everything he touches turns to gold of late Monsta could very well be the next big thing. Only time will tell whether fans see this blend of new and old as an exciting development to be replicated by other artists or as a further homogenisation of a previously vibrant, disparate genre.
Written by ::: Chris Dyer